DEWALT shifts to solve jobsite WiFi woes

A funny thing happened on the way to the cordless jobsite this year for tool giant DEWALT.

In the process of further developing and expanding its connected jobsite tools for construction teams, the Towson, MD-based DEWALT discovered there was another crying need in the industry that needed to be addressed first. So it got to work on solving that problem, too.

This week, the new fruit of that labor, DEWALT WiFi Mesh, officially hits the market, unveiled at ENR FutureTech in San Francisco, trumpeted by enthusiastic supporters Procore Technologies and Autodesk. Procore’s Construction OS will integrate with the new WiFi Mesh. General contractors Whiting Turner and Mortenson also have been involved in the product’s testing and rollout over the past year.

“We didn’t set out to be a WiFi mesh provider, but we realized that most jobsites do not have a reliable connection to WiFi,” says Kelly Mussellwhite, VP of Sales and Commercial Operations, Connected Systems, at DEWALT. “It’s a major issue for our industry; when you leave the trailer and get out into the field, there’s a black hole.”

Others have tried to fill the gap, she says, but the results have been ad hoc and inconsistent from site to site. “There was a real mixed-bag of customer solutions out there, but none of them were ‘ruggedized’ for jobsites,” adds Musselwhite. “So we decided to get into this space. But we realized two things: 1) Our solution needed to be ‘jobsite-tough’; and 2) It needed to be able to adjust, recalibrate and ‘self-heal’ in order to adapt to the changes in its environment.”

We realized two things: 1. Our solution needed to be ‘jobsite-tough’; and 2. It needed to be able to adjust, recalibrate and ‘self-heal’ in order to adapt to the changes in its environment.

— Kelly Mussellwhite, VP of Sales and Commercial Operations, Connected Systems

So DEWALT developed a wireless mesh network that emanates from a site trailer and, using a system of relays, blankets a given jobsite both horizontally and vertically via mounted nodes. The result is high-speed internet access that mirrors the reliability in the trailer, extended to the highest floor of a new building, the deepest recess of an excavation, or the furthest reaches of a road project.

“We’re very excited by all this,” adds Ryan Sax, DeWALT’s director of Product Marketing and Breakthrough Innovation. “All you need to make this work is AC power, and it’s very intuitive, so you don’t have to be the IT guy to operate it. We’ve designed it for ‘ease of use’, so we’ve been able to deploy a full network across a jobsite in just 30 minutes.”

So far, three pilot projects across the U.S. have yielded welcome contractor feedback, leading to positive tweaks and alterations. A fourth pilot is set to get under way in Atlanta this month. After that last trial, DEWALT plans a full release of its WiFi Mesh in August, with final pricing and ship dates.

For the company, the best part is what this new WiFi reliability will enable. Among other advantages, it will lay the groundwork for an upcoming Internet of Things (IoT) platform that DEWALT says will connect all its tools on a given site, providing real-time tracking and performance-monitoring data.

“This is part of a fundamental shift for us,” explains Sax. “We’re not just a tool company anymore. We’re becoming a technology company now.”