Get Ready for Artificial Intelligence in Construction with immense potential on the way.

March 13, 2019

The infrastructure and construction industry is undergoing a lot of seismic transformations that will change its essential character and redefine the industry – which has conventionally traversed at a snail’s pace in incorporating innovative technology – to maximize utility, boost productivity and streamline delivery. AI would assist the construction industry in combatting some of the biggest recurring challenges that it has to face, including project schedule delay, accuracy margin, and safety considerations.

The immense potential of AI in the construction industry

Opportunity areas to be seen
Identification of key opportunity areas within the construction industry where AI has the potential to be a decisive game-changer would be helpful in its evolution, as mass adoption of AI in construction becomes a reality.

Among other uses, project schedule optimizers can consider permutations and combinations of literally innumerable alternative ways for project delivery and concurrently enhancing project planning.

In the domain of site surveying, image recognition and classification can identify unsafe worker behavior pattern and collate this data for future reference.

Deployment of customized real-time solutions at a reduced cost and prioritization of preventative maintenance would also be a plus point.

Other AI-based applications can assist site managers in the inspection of remote sites by updating any changes they witness in real time.

In the future, there would be autonomous quality-control systems that would combine new technologies and artificial intelligence with other tools, including GPS and building-information modeling (BIM). Few construction start-ups have also developed products to assist with many other on-site activities, including supply-chain logistics.

An emerging AI technique called reinforcement learning permits algorithms to learn based on trial and error and would provide effective optimization as well as solve for objective functions (e.g. duration or cost of fuel).

Similar technologies would be directly applicable to project planning and scheduling, as it has the potential to assess endless combinations and alternatives based on similar projects, optimizing the best path and correcting them in due course of time, if and when needed.

leveraging Artificial Intelligence in construction

The adoption of technology in the construction jobsite it happening. Sure, its happening slowly. However the good news is that the adoption is catching on. Thanks to cloud-based applications and mobile devices, the amount of data that is captured (jobsite photos, materials used, labor hours, equipment utilization etc) on a jobsite has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. The value of this information is to do deeper analysis, trending, what-if scenarios to make projects and companies more profitable.

Artificial intelligence provides hidden insights into data that humans cannot process or will take too long. Activities that hamper construction can now use artificial intelligence to make improvements in productivity, safety, quality, and scheduling.

Emerging Trends of Artificial Intelligence in Construction
Safety sensors
The internet of things has automated our home to make our home more energy efficient. Similarly, the internet of things is automating our jobsites to make them safer. Wearable sensors such as Spot-r identify the location of your workers and provide any alerts if a worker slips or falls.

Deploying drones and drone mapping software such as DroneDeploy drastically cuts down the time to gather accurate surveys maps and aerial images of a jobsite. This can be used to track progress without having to be on the jobsite. Additionally the aerial images provide project managers with an additional perspective to identify issues and conflicts they may not view from the ground.

Autonomous vehicles
Major tech companies and car manufacturers are developing self-driving vehicles. While Uber and Google conduct pilot projects of self-driving cars, Caterpillar has released a line of autonomous mining equipment used for dozing, drilling and hauling.

Following autonomous vehicles, robots have started to infiltrate our home (hello Roomba) and the construction site. While robots have not quite made it on the jobsite, Fastbrick Robotics has developed Hadrian X, a bricklaying robot that can build a residential house in 2 days.

Artificial Intelligence in the Future of Construction
Artificial intelligence provides tremendous benefits to improving the productivity in construction. While the construction industry grapples with a labor shortage and declining productivity, artificial intelligence helps to fill in the gaps. However, artificial intelligence is not an exact science and model of natural human intelligence. So artificial intelligence serves to assist humans and not replace them especially in construction where every project is unique and subject to many external factors and moving parts (weather, other trades, etc).

An additional limiting factor to adoption of artificial intelligence will be the cost. Using autonomous vehicles and robotics may increase the output that individual workers can provide, but it will do so at a large cost. The capital investment of the equipment along with the additional expertise to manage the equipment will represent a large upfront investment on companies. Something that may not be viable for many companies in an industry that spends only 1% of revenue on technology.

Artificial intelligence in construction is on the rise. Similar to other technology advances, those that are ready to take the leap will have an edge over their competition.

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