Dewalt's new Wi-Fi mesh network could help smart job sites scale
Tools maker Dewalt is looking to improve job-site connectivity with the launch of a new Wi-Fi mesh system, according to the company, which will feature ruggedized access points to withstand variable job-site weather conditions.
Contractors can use the system to collaborate in real-time on the site and with offsite stakeholders to access documents including drawings, schedules and RFIs.
The news follows an update last month to the company’s Tool Connect system to incorporate new inventory management functionality. In its announcement of the mesh system, the company teased the future development of an Internet of Things platform.
Asset management is a key beneficiary — and driver — of internet-connected job sites. Telematics offers the ability to track the location, use and life cycle of tools and machinery, and even set access restrictions or customize settings. Standardizing and collecting that data can be helpful to project teams that need to predict costs from fuel consumption, repairs and other use-related issues.
Smart tools are certainly smaller in scale than large irons, but their number and prevalence of use on job sites of all sizes make them a prime candidate for scaling up smart solutions in the field.
Dewalt’s recent move to upgrade its smart tools system as well as its plans for a more robust IoT rollout, both atop the new mesh network offering, could give the company an edge in helping the industry move toward fully connected job sites.
Of course, Dewalt isn’t the only toolmaker looking at IoT. Competitor Milwaukee made a splash when it launched the One-Key digital job site in 2015, which also provides inventory management from a desktop and mobile app. And Bosch debuted a set of internet-connected power tools and a companion app earlier this year.
What’s yet to be seen is how these branded asset management solutions will handle the need for interoperability on job sites that pick and choose their tools based on cost and performance, not brand. On the heavy equipment side, mixed-fleet telematics protocols have provided standardized data collection and have guided the development of new tools and systems.
The ability to readily share data among machines and other equipment in use on the job site remains a challenge the industry is striving to overcome. One recent step forward came from con-tech company Procore, which earlier this year debuted a cloud-based operating system for construction companies to store and share job-site information.