Construction Co. Uses CradlePoint to Remotely Monitor Job Sites

The CradlePoint CTR350 Mobile Broadband Travel Router instantly creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that any Wi-Fi enabled device can connect to—laptop, camera, PDA, etc. The CTR350 then connects those devices to the Internet via mobile broadband, providing high-speed web access virtually anywhere. In addition, it can also connect to the Internet via a DSL or Cable broadband modem.

Construction Company Uses CradlePoint to Remotely Monitor Construction Sites

Project Manager Monitors Subcontractors and Deliveries to Job Site Over the Internet Using Web Cam and CradlePoint CTR350 ... All Powered by Solar Panels

Situation:
Nelson Homes builds modular homes all across the state of Virginia. Efficiently coordinating deliveries, subcontractors and employees requires awareness of what materials have been delivered to a job site, which subcontractors have completed their work (so follow up activity can be scheduled) and what sites are ready for his employees.

Challenge:
As budgets have gotten tighter, Rob Rutherford of Nelson Homes has had to act as the construction manager on more and more jobs spread over a wider area. “Things are tough out here in the construction business,” says Rob. “We’ve had to do more with fewer people. So I can’t afford to drive 3 hours to check in on a single job site.”

Rob started looking for a way that he could “see” a job site without actually having to travel to it. He looked at off-the-shelf web cam systems, which would allow him to view job sites over the Internet right from his computer. However, he quickly found that they cost thousands of dollars. He explored an option of tying web cameras into the GPS units on his company trucks, but couldn’t make that work. Next, he started looking into 3G/broadband mobile connectivity via air cards that deliver Internet access for laptops. And that’s when he found CradlePoint.

Solution:
“I stumbled across the CradlePoint routers while I was doing a web search on air cards,” Rob recalls. “As I read about them and saw that they could provide a hot spot for the web cam and that one of the units could run on a battery, I knew I found what I was looking for.”

Rob connected a web cam to a CradlePoint CTR350 using its Ethernet port. The CTR350 then connected the web cam to the Internet through an Alltel air card. Rob powered the entire package with solar panels. While off-the-shelf systems ran into the thousands, Rob was able to put together his do-it-yourself monitoring solution for less than $750.

With the IP camera, Rob can remain in his office and check on a job site from his desktop computer. He’s able to make sure that deliveries have arrived on site so that employees can be correctly scheduled. And he can confirm that work has been completed by one set of subcontractors before calling in the next wave.

Another way Rob plans to use his remote monitoring solution is to allow customers to see the progress of their homes being built. He plans on offering clients a web page that will let them to look at the job site without having to physically drive to the site. “It will enable clients to stay informed of the progress of their home and avoid that valley of despair that often occurs between the time a customer signs the initial contract until the home is finally completed. The more they can see what’s going on, the better.”

Benefits:

  • Easy. “I know a little about routers, but I’m not an expert by any means,” Rob notes. “I plugged [the CTR350} in, and it worked. It couldn’t have been easier. I logged in with the password on the box, found the IP address just like the [QuickStart] instructions said and it hooked up just fine. Adding the web camera was no problem.”
  • Reliable. “[The CTR350] has been up and functioning all the time,” reports Rob. “Before I got the solar panels working right, I had to reboot one or two times, but since then, it’s been solid.”
  • Portable. “Most job sites don’t have electricity, so being able to run it off the battery is important,” says Rob. “[The CTR350] is so portable, I can easily move it from job site to job site. In fact, my son and I went on a couple of trips and brought the CTR350 along. He had his laptop and I had mine and we both had Internet [access] any time we wanted all the way from central Virginia to central Tennessee.”
  • Affordable. “We’re trying to conserve every penny we can,” explains Rob. “I got [my CTR350] for a good price. It’s a little more expensive than a standard router, but with all that it allows you to do and with all the high-end features, it’s more than worth it.”

Rob summarizes his experience with the CradlePoint CTR350: “If I don’t have to drive up to a construction site, but still can see what’s going on, that’s a real help. I’m planning on putting together another two monitoring units and I’m looking forward to saving even more time, thanks to the CradlePoint [CTR350].”