In an age when mobile telephones have emerged as the defining technology of their day, it might strike us as a little puzzling that one of mobile’s predecessors still enjoys such popularity in industry.
Two way radio technology is approaching 100 years old, yet across construction sites, processing plants, factories and warehouses the world over, it remains the go-to solution for wireless on-site communication.
Far from suggesting some reluctance on the part of industry to keep up with the times, the ongoing success of two way radio tells us two things about it. One, it is better suited to use in tough industrial environments than standard mobile phones. While you wouldn’t back a stylish full-screen smartphone to survive the bumps, scrapes and exposure to dirt, dust and water typical of any construction site for very long, two way radio handsets have evolved to be robust and durable. They are easy to use (try working a touchscreen with gloved hands) and guarantee strong signal and clear audio over defined geographical areas.
Second, two way radio has moved with the times. The arrival of digital technology has both enhanced performance and multiplied the functions two way radio is capable of performing. Thanks to digital data integrations, you can now connect your two way radios to telephone lines, to WiFi, to GPS, to whatever software platforms you use to support efficient and effective operational control.
Keeping everyone connected
A key reason why two way radio gained popularity in the construction industry in the first place was the fact that it offered the first viable solution for mobile, wireless communication. To this day, the fact that a foreman can instantly communicate messages to every operative on site plays a critical role in efficient coordination and management. Solutions unique to construction have evolved to ensure everyone remains in the loop, such as pedal-operated, hands-free Crane Intercom systems which allow colleagues on the ground to keep in touch with crane operators as they work.
Modern two way radio systems combine simplicity and convenience with innovative solutions to some of the more intractable challenges facing on-site communications. When you are faced with very large sites or hard-to-reach areas such as tunnels and other underground structures, ancillary equipment such as antennas and repeater units can be deployed to extend signal coverage. One other groundbreaking solution is Motorola’s IP Site Connect system, which allows repeaters in different two way networks to be connected via the internet. This means multiple smaller networks can be combined into one, allowing users to communicate via their radios over large distances.
Health and safety is a key operational priority on any construction site, and two way radio has evolved a range of bespoke features to support it. Another key attraction of two way radio in an industrial environment has always been the simple push-to-talk operation, allowing people to make calls via a single press of a prominent button. Emergency Button features are an extension of this, triggering network-wide alarms with a single push – no having to scramble around for a specific number or contact when time is critical. Emergency Freeze features are a further extension of the concept, using specific alarm sounds to indicate that everyone should down tools and switch off equipment.
Other common safety features included on modern two way radios include Man Down, which uses an accelerometer to detect unusual movements in the person carrying it. A sharp acceleration followed by immobility – which would suggest a fall – automatically triggers an alarm. Lone Worker is a monitoring tool which requires workers operating in dangerous areas to check back in with colleagues regularly – if they miss a contact, an alert is issued. Some of the latest models also support GPS and Bluetooth Beacon location tracking, so it is easy to pinpoint exactly where an alarm comes from.
Brentwood Radios has been supplying two way radio solutions to the construction industry for more than four decades. With options to both purchase and hire two way radios, we also offer full site surveys, installation and a range of support services to ensure every client gets exactly the set-up they need.