When I was at the Hannover Fair earlier this year I met a young man from Taiwan whose company is a major producer of crane components, hoists and lifting equipment. ‘Whassup?’ I asked (sort of). ‘We’re looking at Blue Tooth,’ he replied.

  As luck would have it, I knew vaguely what he was talking about, having just the previous month bought a new mobile phone. The man in the shop had tried to sell me a Blue Tooth phone. ‘You need one of these so that you can talk to your fridge when you are out,’ he told me. He wasn’t the best salesman I’d met. I stuck to a regular GPRS phone instead.

Anyway, the man from Taiwan had impressed me. It was the first time I had heard Blue Tooth mentioned in the context of this industry. ‘What will it do?’ I asked him, trying to figure out the benefits of a crane that can talk to my fridge. ‘Not sure yet,’ he admitted.

I repeated this conversation to a wise man who sells radio remote control systems for cranes and asked him whether Blue Tooth was going to change the industry. He couldn’t see it. Blue Tooth, he said, was too lightweight, a consumer product, not for industrial applications.

He’s probably right. What do I know? I can’t even work out what I might want to say to my fridge. But one thing seems certain, technologies such as wireless Ethernet (WiFi Standard) and Blue Tooth are making their way into the daily lives of computer users. Office users can come in with laptops that are automatically logged into the wireless office network without having to connect to any outlets. As Marc Ostertag of PAT explains on p40, these concepts are ready to be translated to the construction site. Machines can talk to each other, with benefits for safety and productivity. ‘Too far out? It is just a matter of a few years until we will see those applications begin to emerge,’ he says.

What is standing in the way is the development of a single protocol for the industry. Ostertag is calling for a panel of major equipment manufacturers to evaluate existing standards and recommend a single way forward so that we can begin to benefit from the available technology.

I support that call wholeheartedly. Let’s get on with it.