Laing O'Rourke is installing wireless Lan hotspots at its construction sites and offices in the UK and plans to provide many of its 4,000 staff with notebook PCs containing Intel Centrino wireless-enabled chips.
"There is undoubtedly a return on investment case in using wireless technology," said Sam Simons, director of strategy at Laing O'Rourke. "The cost of time in our business is the most significant cost we deal with. We need to get access to up-to-date data in a timely way."
Simons said the move would radically improve site communications and the productivity of the firm's engineers by giving them mobile access to the corporate network and applications such as e-mail.
A key factor in the decision to adopt Centrino was battery life. The company hopes to get "a working day" out of a notebook on a single charge. "Until Centrino, we did not have the coming together of mobility with long-term battery life," said Simons.
The company also aims to spread the use of wireless technology in the UK by leaving a legacy of wireless hotspots in place at the construction projects it works on, which include the new terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.
Laing O'Rourke, which has a turnover of £1.4bn a year, also aims to look into the materials used in buildings and how they are built to address the problem of wireless signals being blocked by structures. "We want to make the world more Wi-Fi-friendly," said Simons.
Adrian Criddle, corporate development director at Intel, said its relationship with Laing O'Rourke was vital because it would enable the chip maker to look into the capabilities of wireless Lans in new buildings.
Criddle said Laing O'Rourke is part of "a new breed of partners" surrounding the Centrino launch. He said alliances with firms in areas such as telecoms and the financial sector will follow.