Image Courtesy Openroute Inc.
OpenRoute's wireless signal repeaters, housed in "yellow Pelican cases" for durability, can be strapped onto anything, from cranes to pillars.
Image Courtesy Openroute Inc.
As a building rises, repeaters are added, one by one, around the site to ensure continued wireless connectivity and scalability to reach every level of the evolving building.

A new hardware system allows a jobsite's wireless signal to grow with construction. Called OpenRoute, it functions as a series of synchronized wireless signal repeaters, strategically placed and moved around the site.

The technology came to market in 2014's first quarter, after beta-testing on nearly two-dozen jobsites over the past year, says Bill Dixon, vice president of marketing and sales for Seattle-based OpenRoute Inc.

"Wireless connectivity was a big deal on our project," says early adopter John Crichton, project engineer, Lease Crutcher Lewis, Seattle. His team used robotic total stations and Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablets to survey a building's layout, and used the wireless network, to upload point-cloud data from the field.

"If we had to go back to the jobsite trailer and upload from there, it's the difference between three minutes and 30 minutes," says Crichton.

When the job began, Crichton's team used its own high-powered wireless antenna, mounted on the job trailer 150 ft from the construction site. "Some corners of the site were 500 ft from the trailer," he says.

Initially, the antenna did the job, says Crichton, "but, once we established the structure, we began to experience a radical drop-off in connectivity." The building began blocking the wireless signal for much of the site.

After troubleshooting failed to solve the problem, Crichton's IT staff brought in OpenRoute, which replaced the antenna with its own hardware.

"The first thing we do is search the site for the best places for our repeaters," says Dixon. All the repeater needs is a power source to automatically sync with whatever wireless signal it is paired with. There is no need to run any wiring through the site, says Dixon.

"I call it the yellow Pelican case," says Crichton, describing the repeater.

OpenRoute technicians disconnected Crichton's wireless antenna at the work trailer and strapped one yellow box in its place and three more in various locations on the jobsite, he says. They brought a free Android smart-phone app called NetMeter, which communicates with the repeaters and pinpoints where the signal from the trailer is strongest, notes Crichton. "There wasn't a location where we didn't have wireless service once they set it up," he says.