On the worksite of the future, progress reports will become obsolete. Managers who have never set foot on construction sites will already know what's been done and what work still remains thanks to dozens of video feeds showing them everything they need to see.
This will all be possible thanks to 5G, the fifth-generation wireless network, which will enable the sending of large amounts of video with little to no lag time, and at a much higher quality than what people are used to today.
"It's going to look better than it does when you're streaming Netflix at home over a cable network," says Jared Brown, co-founder and CTO of HubStaff, a staff monitoring company that helps businesses track employees. The Indianapolis-based company uses virtual borders called geofences to clock employees in and out of job sites and automatically report their hours worked to employers. Founded in 2012, the company generated $4.1 million in revenue in 2018 and has 34,000 customers around the world.
HubStaff doesn't incorporate real-time video into its service, but that could change once 5G makes it possible for the company to add new types of data to its offerings.
HubStaff's monitoring service has been in increasingly high demand in recent years from companies related to software development and e-commerce, as well as businesses that rely on remote freelancers. The company claimed the No. 852 spot on Inc.'s annual list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S in 2019.
"You don't really know how profitable projects are or how productive you can be until you're accurately tracking your time," says Courtney Cavey, HubStaff's director of marketing.
Visual details in the form of smartphone photos and videos from the job site could also allow managers to provide feedback and instructions remotely. If this all sounds slightly intrusive in terms of privacy, Brown notes that real-time verification will also benefit employees, citing the tension that can exist between crews and management in labor-intensive jobs where clients are paying by the hour. With visual verification, crews can use video to show how and why a job may be more complex than originally thought.
Brown hopes to aim this technology at labor-intensive industries such as landscaping, construction, and cleaning because of the travel-dependent nature of the work. But he's aware that it could be a few years before 5G extends to the rural and suburban areas that those businesses serve. It's been predicted that cell networks will launch standalone 5G between 2020 and 2021, but urban areas will likely be the first to receive coverage.
But when 5G does launch more broadly, Brown predicts that the tools it will into motion will serve as camaraderie boosters across industries. "If you can remove a lot of that tension between management and the crew, that's just huge," Brown says. "You're improving communication, therefore you're improving morale. It's really a win-win."