In the latest of our market overviews, Stuart Guy of Gardiner & Theobald runs through the eight current ICT systems to install in your building and how much they cost – plus a technological specialist gets a grilling
You don’t have to be a computer geek to know that information and communication technology is the boom industry of the moment. The European market amounts to about £17bn a year, and growth is still accelerating, as is the evolution of electronic technology.
The latest trend is to integrate data processing and storage with the transmission of text, voice and visuals across a widely dispersed network of terminals. This trend considerably broadens the range of building types incorporating ICT. Modern sports stadiums, for example, now incorporate ICT in a big way. At a racecourse currently under construction, live coverage of races will be wirelessly transmitted across vast open spaces to 650 large plasma and small laptop screens. These will be interactive for placing bets or playing back events.
In educational buildings, blackboard and chalk have given way to interactive whiteboards. The medical sector is more and more dependent on ICT, and the current drive is to speed up diagnosis and treatment by digitally linking GPs’ surgeries with hospitals. When it comes to airport terminals and control towers, they simply cannot operate without live ICT, and for example one leading airline is now faced with the task of tying together about 800 uncoordinated IT systems.
Much of the information contained within the report has been obtained from ICT companies that have actively participated with Gardiner & Theobald in researching the marketplace. This information has been complemented by internal experience and feedback gained from recent and continuing projects.
Eight current ICT systems are described briefly in this datafile, and their costs when installed in a typical building project analysed. The detailed cost information is based on the London and South-east marketplace and with a base date of third quarter 2005. The costs of preliminaries, overheads and profit, general builders work, professional fees, prescribed fees, contingency, design reserves, tax allowance and VAT are all excluded.
A wireless network uses high frequency radio waves rather than wires to transmit data. A typical commercial office network configuration involves a network of standard copper cabling, but PCs are connected to it by means of radio network card rather than a standard wired network card. Wireless technology allows computers to be used up to 100 m from physical network points, though speed of transmission is slower.
Wireless local area networks (WLAN) are typically used in offices, airport terminal buildings, hotels, open-air sporting grounds, coffee shops and so on. WLANs are gaining in popularity as more people are becoming equipped with wireless capability, such as laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and handheld email devices. Wireless networks are providing the opportunity for workers to hot-desk within the office.
Although the figures below suggest a considerable saving by using wireless technology, cost is not the only consideration. Going wireless in an existing building may require upgrading all end devices, and visiting guests may not have wireless enabled devices. Some buildings may not be suited for wireless networking as metal elements reduce range. Security risks may mean data is too sensitive to risk transmitting over the open airwaves. Finally, wireless networking is still far slower than a wired network.
Computer specialist Q&A
Redstone Communications is an information and communication technology specialist providing end-users with comprehensive solutions integrating voice, data and building management systems. The British company has 550 staff and an annual turnover of £80m. Here, Redstone’s business development director, Matthew Richards, gives his insights into the British ICT scene.
What services does your company provide?
Redstone’s Converged Solutions division provides unified solutions covering phone, data, access control, security and building management systems. We have 137 different offerings that are all integrated within internet protocols. The result is that that most building installations usually end up with just two networks – one covering fire alarms and the other covering everything else. We take on everything from design through project management to installation.
Which procurement method do you prefer?
Procuring ICT is a very different world to construction procurement. Most clients want a unified ICT system, depending on their budget, because it’s simpler than dealing with lots of disparate proprietary systems. So the best way to achieve this is for us to sit down with the client as early as possible and tell them what’s available.
Usually they set up a two-stage tender with an initial contract for design development followed by final solution in which we work with a particular manufacturer such as Cisco, Siemens and Avaya.
How do you fit in with the building team?
It’s not a good idea to merge an ICT contract into a construction contract, as most contractors don’t know how to procure an ICT system. Even so, there are never issues about gaining access to the site, as the main contractor provides the project management and subcontractors doing the electrical services and fit-out are usually keen for us to slot in with them. It’s a common misconception that our work overlaps with that of electrical contractors, but in practice they install the cable trays, trunking and patch-boxes, and we put in the cabling.
What sort of projects have you tackled?
We work with more and more property developers because they want a unified solution that’s available in the building from day one. For instance we had a £1m contract for Hammerson to provide a lot of ICT services on the Birmingham Bullring. Most end-user companies get a wired system with a wireless overlay.
What do you see as the main challenges in terms of building projects?
The big challenge is for building organisations to see that ICT is intrinsic to the infrastructure of a building. Perhaps they should take on an ICT partner that works with individual ICT systems rather than back into several smaller uncoordinated contracts. All this is now possible with internet protocol, which has just come of age
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP)
VoIP is the transmission of telephone (voice) calls using internet protocols (IP). With VoIP, you can make a call from anywhere you have a network (internal calls), or a network with internet connectivity (internal and external calls) and correctly configured hardware and software, and you only need one telephone number. VoIP works by switching voice sound into digital signal, which allows thousands of calls to travel simultaneously along the same cable. Its main advantage is its simplicity, and most home PCs these days can cope with VoIP on a small scale.
In a typical current application, a large multinational company will have a fixed data network connecting all the offices together via a series of private lease lines. By installing a VoIP Gateway in each office and connecting it to the office system private branch exchange (PBX) and the data network, the existing data network can be used for free voice calls between company offices. Savings can be more than £1m a year.
In a more sophisticated system that involves an internet protocol private branch exchange (IP PBX), the internal phones are VoIP digital phones and connect to the IP PBX by copper data cabling, often piggybacking on desktop PC cabling. This saves on cabling and equipment.
When comparing traditional phone line technology with VoIP, there is an overall cost saving for installing VoIP. VoIP provides greater flexibility to the end user (it’s easier to transfer phones across desks and more future proof). The costs of calls are free across an existing LAN (local area network – internal calls) or WAN (wide area network – external calls).
Several main network topologies are currently used in standard installations. The topology of a network refers to the configuration of cables, computers, and other peripherals.
- Bus topology Also know as linear, ethernet or backbone topology, this consists of a main run of cable (backbone) with terminators at each end, all nodes (file server or servers, workstations and peripherals) are connected to the linear cable. It is usually limited to small businesses.
- Star topology Star topology is designed with each node connected directly to a central hub. The hub packages data together and communicates with its nodes and other nodes on the network through their hubs. It is easy to install and configure.
- Star bus (tree) topology This is probably the most common network topology in use today. It combines elements of the star and bus topologies to create a versatile and expandable network environment.
The category of a cable, as defined by the International Standards Organisation, specifies the maximum achievable bandwidth. Category 5 cable is a four-pair high-performance cable that is typically used for ethernet networks running at 10 or 100 Mb per second. Category 5e cable, also known as enhanced category 5, has to run at 100 Mbps or 1 Gb per second. Category 6 cable provides higher performance and can support gigabyte-level ethernet transmission using only two pairs of the cable rather than all four.
There are basically three types of fibre available in data networking – 50/125 mm multimode fibre, 62.5/125 mm multimode fibre and 9/125 mm single mode fibre. The figures 50 mm, 62.5 mm and 9 mm refer to the diameter of the inner glass core in which the light travels; all are contained within 125 mm diameter glass outer cladding. Multimode fibres can be used with low-cost LED (light emitting diode) technology but have limited bandwidth. Single-mode fibre, on the other hand, has almost unlimited bandwidth, but is four times more expensive to install.
Currently, the costs of fibre-related components are steeply reducing and are becoming closer to the costs of standard copper components.
Internet protocol television (IPTV)
Internet protocol television uses internet protocols to distribute television and video signals over the internet and LANs, rather than using conventional radio-frequency signal formats.
Four stages of IPTV are available for a typical installation, such as commercial stadium, where live or recorded events are transmitted to a network of plasma screens located around the grounds.
- Stage 1 Off-air channels, such as BSkyB and Freeview are fed directly into the network.
- Stage 2 On-air channels, or the stadium’s own live TV footage or pre-recorded video, are transmitted.
- Stage 3 Comes with management server and software, which allows the video streams to be viewed and edited.
- Stage 4 This can pipe video to set-top boxes, similar to domestic TVs controlled by hand-held infrared remote controls.
Good quality IPTV is here to stay and is becoming more popular every day. Companies within the UK are now beginning to offer IPTV over broadband internet on a subscription basis. Also large companies are realising its potential business advantages and opportunities.
A server is a computer or device on a network that manages requests for data, email, file transfers, printing and other network management services required to keep a network operational.
Servers in common current usage can generally be classified into one of the following groups:
- Tower servers Equipped with between one and four processors (or CPUs) and normally installed in small organisations requiring limited networking facilities.
- Rack optimised servers Commonly used when a tower system reaches full capacity, as each component, or server, slots into a standard rack.
- Blade servers Stand-alone servers containing one or more processors with associated memory, hard disk storage, network controllers, multiple operating systems and software. Several blades can be plugged into a common chassis, so that they effectively work together as a single server.
- ClearCube technology This is similar to the blade server, the difference being that ClearCube takes the processing away from the desktop PC and therefore significantly reduces the size and processing requirements of the desktop PC – in effect, removing it.
Blade servers can offer many advantages if more than five servers are required. Above 10 dual-processor blade servers, the total system cost roughly equals that of rack-mounted servers. Beyond that number, the total system cost for blade servers becomes the cheaper of the two. Further savings can be made by using quadruple-processor blade servers, as fewer blades are required.
Data storage can basically be described as computer components or hardware that retain data over time. Data storage can either be based on magnetic or optical media:
- Magnetic media A magnetic tape or hard disk is fitted either internally or externally to the device that it serves. Hard disks are split into two main types: SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) mainly for domestic use, and the faster SCSI (small computer system interface) for commercial use. Tape is still the best media for back-up, as hard disks still have a long way to go to reach optimum capacity.
- Optical media A compact disk or DVD coated in heat-sensitive dye is recordable either once only – R (for read) – or multiple times – RW (read–write). Optical systems are more reliable than magnetic systems, storage capacities are improving and costs are dropping rapidly. Tapes and hard disks are ideal for bulk back-up or storage of data (tapes can be taken off site). CDs and DVDs are more suited for limited or selective back-up and storage of data
Computer screen technology
There are three main types of monitor screen available:
- Cathode ray tube The CRT has been around for more than 100 years in one form or another, but CRT televisions and monitors are now being overtaken by other technologies.
- Liquid crystal display Super-thin LCD monitors have become standard in most offices, providing more desk space, using less energy and therefore less demand on air conditioning systems. Picture resolution is now equal to, if not better than, that of CRT. Even 3D display is now a feasible proposition.
- Gas plasma display Plasma screens, as they are commonly known, are dropping in price. High-definition television screens are available at a cost of about £4000, which will inevitably reduce with time. The large screen sizes make them more suitable for commercial applications, such as information displays and television screens.
The best options are clearly LCD and plasma screens, with plasma winning out on size and LCD on image resolution and brightness
Desktop technology refers to the equipment and devices that are used within a workspace for day-to-day working; this can be at the office, a remote location or at home. An office desktop computer, or workstation, comprises a display monitor, normally a LCD flat screen; a keyboard, a mouse, and nearly all with a CD/DVD drive and local hard-drive storage.
Computer trends are currently moving towards remote working, in which a number of mobile devices, namely portable PCs and PDAs, are employed. Portable computers, called notebooks or laptops, are small enough to fit into a briefcase. A PDA is a handheld device that can combine computing and a personal organiser along with a telephone, a fax, internet connectivity and email for accessing the desktop environment and other contacts.
Remote desktops let you use your home computer, laptop and PDA, to take advantage of the flexibility provided by a wireless network, access via telephone modems or broadband connections. It can give you full secure access from anywhere to your office desktop environment and all your applications, files, and network resources.
The desktop environment is starting to change, as more companies are using “thin client” desktop devices as an alternative to the standard workstation. Thin clients have minimal operating system with no more than a low-specification monitor at the desktop, as all their applications are accessed from a remote server. This is known as server-based computing, and as server processing power and internet bandwidths increase, remote thin client desktops will become more effective over greater geographical areas.
Thin client desktops with server-based computing significantly reduces the cost of managing an ICT infrastructure, and can cut costs by at least 35% over five years. The use of remote access will allow greater flexibility to the end user, enabling working from home with access to centralise files, data and email; providing a virtual office environment. Thin client environments provide more usable desk space, together with reducing the company’s overall capital and operational expenditures.
The ICT industry in still in its infancy compared with the construction industry, and people working in it are not used to the rigid constraints of standard construction forms of contract.
On top of that the task of procuring and cost-managing ICT packages is very often left till the 11th hour, when they seriously risk missing the boat as far as the construction programme is concerned.
As a result, the ICT package is usually let by the client as a totally separate contract that allows more control. Sometimes cabling is folded into the main building contract, and installing terminations and equipment let as a separate contract. The contract is usually let on a performance specification to a large all-in systems house, such as Cisco or HP, or let to a smaller consultant, which will then procure hardware and software from three or four other companies.
Cost and programme management
Although it is easy to check prices through websites, the big risk of ICT contracts is that the price of the overall package escalates in line with rapidly developing technology.
A brake can be put on escalating costs by adopting the American charge control system. In this system, the design and cost is frozen, and each proposed variation is assessed for its extra cost and its knock-on effect on the rest of the project. Variations that would break the limits are stockpiled and let as a separate additional contract after the end of the project.
As for programme management, it pays to consider ICT at the embryonic stage of a project. The ICT system should be up and running well before project completion, so that it can be debugged and finetuned and service staff trained.
The trend is for smarter, easier and greater storage capacity; safer, cleaner and more efficient power sources, and quicker, simpler accessibility for users.
The next generation of technologies includes Blu-ray, an optical disc format that can store up to a massive 50 Gb of data, and possibly even 500 Gb. Holographic technology promises even more immense data storage running into thousands of Gbs. Fuel Cell technology is likely to come up with tiny, long-lasting power packs for laptops and other portable equipment. And through voice activation and recognition, any device will be able to be controlled by voice or mobile phone.
This datafile was compiled by Stuart Guy, senior associate at cost consultant Gardiner & Theobald. Email him at email@example.com
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