Heading Image reads Long-Term Timelapse Calculating Data Usage

How to Calculate Expected Data Usage for Long-Term Construction Timelapse

Preparing for a construction timelapse project? There are huge benefits to calculating your project’s data usage in advance.

First, you can identify which cellular data plan is best for your project

Second, you can identify what your total photo upload data will be for your project, and therefore, which Cloud Services plan is right for you.

Third, by estimating your data usage as above, you won’t blow out your budget by accidentally going over cellular data and total photo upload limits, needing to buy more data.

This article will walk you through the whole process; we have even created a handy calculator which will estimate your data usage for you.

So, let’s get started.

The equation for estimating monthly cellular data usage itself is simple:

photo file size   x   photos uploaded in a month   +   10% buffer
= monthly data requirement

Calculating your monthly data requirement will help you identify which plan you should choose from your local cellular data provider.

Calculating total photo uploads over the whole project will help you identify which Cloud Services plan you need for your total photo upload limit.

It’s that straightforward; but you can use the calculator below to make it even easier.

Just put in your numbers to calculate your estimates.

And, for more detailed help on planning your data usage, read on below.

Man's hand writing on notepad next to laptop computer keyboard

Photo File Sizes

The size of JPEG files varies depending on the camera, the image settings, and the complexity of the scene.

The best time to check file size is during pre-installation testing.

To determine your JPEG file size, simply take some photos with your desired settings and check the size of the files.

If you can’t photograph the actual job site, take photos of a range of scenes and use the largest file size as your guide.

A word on shooting RAW: We don’t recommend uploading RAW photos, as they tend to be large files that will make your data costs sky-rocket.

You are also more likely to max out your project’s total photo upload limit.

You also can’t view RAW photos on the online web gallery, so there’s not a lot of benefit to uploading them.

If you want to shoot RAW, it’s best to save the RAW files to the on-board SSD for periodic manual collection.

Closeup of hand changing settings on DSLR camera

Photo Uploads and Client Expectations

The frequency of shooting and photo uploads is something to discuss with your client.

Is your client satisfied with less frequent uploads, every thirty minutes or hour?

Or are they expecting more frequent vision of their site, every ten or even five minutes?

Your client’s needs are going to affect which Cloud Services plan you choose, and your cellular data costs, so reflect that in your fees. 

Consider charging a higher monthly fee for shorter upload intervals.

This will push data costs back on to them and not on your bottom line.

If available, you can also connect your timelapse system to LAN, and not have to worry about your data costs at all. 

Shoot Only On Work Days

Make sure to discuss with your client which days of the week the construction site will be active.

Five days is common, but some projects may be active for six or even seven days a week.

In the photoSentinel Control Hub you can select which days to shoot.

Uncheck the non-work days so you’re not uploading photos when nothing is happening on site.

Construction Workers

Build In Some Buffer

Once you’ve calculated your data usage, don’t choose cellular data plan that only just meets the minimum requirement.

For example, if you calculate that your data use per month is going to be about 4.8GB, you may begin eyeballing a 5GB plan.

Avoid that temptation; unforeseen variables can spike your data usage.

A client might come to you wanting to ramp up the photo frequency.

Or a period of busy activity demands shorter intervals to capture all the action.

Network dropout can also result in multiple upload attempts before a photo uploads successfully.

We recommend you give yourself a 10-20% buffer on your data plan so that you don’t have to stress about going over.

(The calculator above adds a 10% buffer.)

Selective Uploading

With the photoSentinel Tempo you can choose to upload only some photos, by setting the upload frequency to be less that the shooting frequency.

The 500GB industrial-SSD storage option for the Tempo also gives you flexibility in managing your files, total photo uploads, and cellular data costs.

You can upload at less frequent intervals, saving some or many photos straight to local storage for collection at a later date.

You can also remotely change the upload frequency at any time, based on how your data usage is tracking.

Confidence in Your Data Budget

It’s worth setting aside the time to calculate your cellular data, as well as your predicted total photo uploads, so that you stay within your plans.

Double check you haven’t failed to ‘carry the one’ somewhere.

It’s a simple process, but time and again we’ve seen photographers caught off guard by a hefty cellular data bill.

Take a few minutes to calculate your data requirements against your budget and total photo upload limits, and keep your bottom line safe.

Learn More

To learn how to avoid other common long-term timelapse mistakes, check out: