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Smart tech in civils is only possible if sites and plant are connected

Tech Excellence | Connecting site and plant

Osborne site

We are a technology company using connectivity to achieve better business performance for our customers,” explains Onwave managing director Stuart Ladbrook.

He is summing up why civils firms should be interested in his little black boxes. In essence that is what Onwave supplies: boxes of tricks that connect assets, construction equipment, fleets or whole sites to the Internet of Things and enable the modern day aspiration to achieve smart infrastructure.

Their box is clever: it is a router that federates different connections – Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, ADSL and satellite – automatically selecting the best available to route digital traffic through the fastest service. It is a service that is finding uses in a variety of different ways from providing comms on remote construction sites to connecting fixed assets such as boreholes and bridges; to tracking vehicle fleets and even communicating with grass cutters to alert them where they should and should not be cutting.

“We want to be that route to market for tech start-ups,” explains Ladbrook. “They all rely on connectivity and this is at the heart of what we do. Connectivity is critical across all project phases.”

We’re trying to drive an increase in customer awareness of smart technology. It’s about becoming a trusted advisor

Ladbrook reels off a list of tech start ups that Onwave is tracking and talking with, from remote drone providers such as DroneDeploy and Kespry, job allocation and automation app GeoPal, site visualisation tech such as Ricoh Theta, Smartvid.io and Holobuilder, worker safety apps such as Redpoint Positioning, SensorZone and OnGrade and real-time information kits such as XoEye and Daqri.

He is also keeping tabs on worker health sensors from Pulsar, Triax and Spot-r and exoskeleton developer Ekso Bionics. 

Ultimately, it offers the chance for differentiation – and the chance to win more work, he says.

“What we know is that we can give better connectivity, which must in turn increase productivity,” adds Onwave founder and chief executive Sean McKeague.

It ensures our employees can be properly supported as well as allowing access to Costain’s internal network resources

Onwave is currently working with tier one contractors such as Costain, ISG and Osborne. Costain has connected around 40 sites using the service, consuming on average two terabytes of data per month.

Costain group IT mobilisation manager Nick Capsticks says the service has helped his firm meet the requirements of rapidly deploying IT connectivity to its projects.

“It ensures our employees can be properly supported as well as allowing access to Costain’s internal network resources. Our joint venture partners and subcontractors also benefit by having access to high speed internet access on day-one of landing on site,” he says.

Similarly Osborne, with a wide variety of locations and different needs at each site, was also struggling to get reliable internet access for all of its construction projects.

“Previously we would install ADSL, but the lead times are unpredictable and could be anything from weeks to several months. These delays and uncertainties add significant frustration and cost to our projects,” explains Osborne head of IT Phil Gilbey.

“Part of ensuring that projects are completed on time and on budget is delivering complete and accurate construction information to our teams on site, as plans are regularly updated and things are always being refined and finalised.

“So it’s absolutely essential that those plans are delivered to the site as soon as they become available.

East Sussex County Council

Subcontracting all highway maintenance to a JV of Costain and CH2M, East Sussex had several objectives for its gritters. It wanted to be able to access the location and exact activity of all vehicles at any point in time. It wanted to use telematics to carry out deep data mining and so analyse route efficiency. And it wanted to be able to relay gritter schedule information to the public.

Onwave developed a software platform using the data from the router to show exact locations on a county map. Taking things a step further, a small computer was then added to the router to record real time data and combine it with GPS data to populate a database in the Cloud. This allowed gritter schedule information to be made publicly available.

The successful work with the winter fleet encouraged East Sussex to let Onwave loose on the summer fleet too. East Sussex subcontracts its grass cutting duties to Countrymans and it was looking for ways to improve the management and efficiency of this task. It also wanted to prevent the accidental mowing of SSI wild flower verges and wanted to gather data to meet legal requirements regarding public access to mowing schedules.

After testing a range of different mobile solutions, Onwave was able to provide a tailor-made solution. First, it developed a scheduling system that provided an interface between Esri’s Workforce for ArcGIS workflow management app and previous management systems. Data collected in Workforce was used to better manage mowing duties.

To combat wild flower verge mowing, a bespoke Geofence solution is underway to independently supervise the position of Workforce tablets and warn of nearby hazards. Warning silencing will only be possible via a centrally-logged manual hazard acknowledgement.

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