Part Three of our four-part series “The Success of 5G Deployment Depends on these 4 Key Industry Changes.” Read the other articles here.
The massive deployment of equipment that is necessary for reliable 5G service throughout the country is demanding for everyone involved. The stakes are high for providers whose success depends on getting a network in place to meet consumer expectations for 5G technology.
They’re not the only ones under pressure. Utilities and municipalities own many of the structures, such as electric power poles and streetlights, to which much of the small cell equipment enabling 5G is being attached. All parties have important decisions to make to ensure that deployment is safe, effective, and orderly. To keep the rollout at the desired pace, those decisions have to be made quickly and efficiently.
For optimal 5G deployment, a spirit of cooperation is necessary. For communities to reap the full benefits of 5G, all involved stakeholders must recognize that they share a common objective while also respecting individual priorities that are unique to each party.
That collaborative mindset is essential, but alone it’s not enough to ensure smooth deployment. The other piece of the puzzle is data.
Fully Informed Decisions
Alden CEO John Sciarabba identified four key mindset shifts (outlined in an Energy Central article and explored one by one in this series) that he believes are necessary for effective 5G deployment. Of these four, perhaps the most obvious is that companies must realize the need to be data driven. A process that involves attaching hundreds of antenna units to utility poles throughout a community requires decision-making at a pace many companies have simply never faced before. That pace can be met only if those involved have accurate, up-to-date, actionable data.
“Walk into any business today, and you expect they have the data required to make informed decisions and run their operation efficiently,” Sciarabba says. “It’s no different for utilities.”
The problem is that traditional methods of joint use data management do not meet the demands of the 2020s. The scale of the job has changed, thus the solutions must change as well.
Facing the Challenges
A couple of technological revolutions ago, a company could collect the data necessary for joint use decisions simply by sending a technician into the field with a notepad and a measuring stick. The measurements and observations were written on paper and filed in a folder or binder, along with copies of any communications among the companies involved. Later, the paper files may have given way to digital spreadsheets, but the principle was similar.
Fast forward to now. The landscape has dramatically changed. With the rapidly increasing number of attachment requests flowing into many utilities’ these days, the people making the decisions require comprehensive, current data on all assets at their fingertips. To meet their own deadlines, the people installing the new equipment cannot afford any surprises when they get to the work site, and the asset owners don’t need any surprises after the work has been completed. To get it right, both efficient data collection and sophisticated data management are crucial.
Fortunately, technological tools — both hardware and software — are available to meet the demands of the moment. By maximizing efficiency, these tools save companies time while improving the quality of data available.
Better Technology + Better Data
The first step forward is improved data collection. Technicians will still venture into the field to look at a pole, but now, instead of (or in addition to) a measuring stick, they can arm themselves with a handheld imager to measure everything in its view using a technology known as photogrammetry. The technician can quickly gather data on the pole itself, along with distances to curbs and nearby objects, and the heights and dimensions of equipment currently attached to the pole.
The Task Agent™ app used in conjunction with the imager can ensure that the technician locates the pole easily and captures all the necessary data, which can then be fed into the utility’s data management system via the Alden One® platform. This combination of technologies allows a company to quickly amass accurate, usable data on its assets. If desired, multiple photographs taken with handheld imagers can be stitched together digitally to create a three-dimensional model of the pole and its attachments, known as a digital twin.
Another advantage of this technology is that it can easily gather additional information that may not be essential to the task at hand but can be stored for future use, making repeated costly trips to the field unnecessary.
The next important tool is a platform for utility data management that handles enough of the legwork to enable company personnel to make informed, well-grounded decisions on an increasingly tight schedule. Advanced software can help organize and analyze the data, keep it easy to access and/or share, and help keep projects on track.
Partners in Information
Becoming truly data driven in a joint use environment requires one thing more – the willingness and ability to share relevant data, both internally and with external joint use partners. Advanced software like Alden One allows any organization involved to customize data sharing so that the right departments and companies are getting the right information to move forward efficiently with deployment. Alden’s Sciarabba has described this process as “social media meets asset management in the utility space.”
Effective data sharing ties directly into the collaborative spirit that Sciarabba understands is so important to the 5G rollout. “Only when you have up-to-date data and can quickly act on it, can you decide how to best allocate resources to achieve your desired outcome,” he says.
Alden’s joint use data management platform, Alden One, is a powerful tool that helps companies get the most out of their data at a time when both speed and safety are top considerations.
To learn more about Alden’s products and services, contact a product specialist here.