Author- Kathleen Walch
Construction is one of the oldest professions as people have been building shelters and structures for millennia. However the industry has evolved quite a bit in the way they design, plan, and build structures. For decades, technology has been used in the construction industry to make jobs more efficient and construction projects and structures safer.
In recent years, construction companies have increasingly started using AI in a range of ways to make construction more efficient and innovative. From optimizing work schedules to improving workplace safety to keeping a secure watch on construction facilities, AI in the construction industry is already proving its value.
Construction managers have been finding value with AI and cognitive technologies to help automate many of the mundane but essential tasks to running their operations. They are finding AI helpful with scheduling related tasks in order to prevent delays, conflicts, and other issues. This is both on the staff level of scheduling and on the project and materials side.
For small scale projects humans might be able to manage complicated construction schedules and processes manually. However, large scale, multi-year projects require the coordination of many complicated tasks and moving parts such as designs and blueprints, permits, and unexpected delays and changes that quickly get out of control for humans to manage without the assistance of technology.
Machine learning excels at finding patterns and outliers in data. Using pattern recognition and historical data, along with connections to scheduling systems and other associated information, AI has proven to help better manage schedules. Using machine learning, organizations are able to spot and catch potential issues faster than humans. When it comes to scheduling, the use of advanced AI can help to prevent costly delays on sites or amongst suppliers, vendors, and others involved in the process.
Many construction sites are also using AI to run through what-if scenarios and contingency planning. The same pattern detection software that works so well with scheduling can be deployed to look for common trends in the project. The AI is able to extrapolate from there what might happen if a permit is delayed or an incident happens and run through multiple scenarios very quickly. This forecasting exercise can help ensure plans are in place to deal with unexpected situations.
Construction sites are also turning to autonomous vehicles to help with various parts of the construction lifecycle. The use of autonomous devices, drones and robotic construction workers has been on the rise. Drones are being used for surveying and taking overhead images of construction sites allowing for a more comprehensive view of the site through various stages of the construction project. Robots are being used to help with various tasks such as bricklaying, pouring concrete, or installing drywall. These robots and autonomous tools are helping augment the human workforce on sites to help with labor costs and keep the project on time.
Increasing safety through advanced data intelligence
Increasingly, modern machines and equipment are adding various sensors to help with the overall function and operation of the complicated and expensive machinery. These sensors can monitor a variety of different conditions relevant to the construction such as temperature, engine condition, and aspects of application of materials. These various sensor tools are being combined with AI in order to intelligently monitor construction sites. These tools are able to analyze data in real time and predict with a high degree of certainty problems, delays, or malfunctions that might occur. This predictive maintenance can help prevent costly delays and downtime.
Construction is not without hazards. There are a variety of potential hazards at the site from dangerous structures to moving equipment that poses dangers to humans. AI is also helping to improve overall safety on job sites. Increasingly, construction sites are being equipped with cameras, IoT devices, and sensors that monitor many aspects of construction operations. AI-enabled systems are able to watch what is going on 24/7 without distraction. With facial recognition and object recognition technology, AI systems are capable of detecting unsafe behavior and alerting the construction team of potential hazards. Not only does this reduce liability but it can save lives and increase efficiency.
AI-enabled surveillance systems are also helping to keep a watchful eye over the construction site for an additional level of security. With so much expensive equipment and machinery at the site, it can be a potential hotbed for theft. Construction sites are using AI to automatically monitor security footage to spot any suspicious activity. Not only can this software perform traditional analytics such as alerting for movement, it can watch for specific actions or images that come into frame. The AI can monitor equipment, tools and supplies and send out alerts if anyone attempts to steal something from the site.
Because of the incredible results AI has delivered, it’s no surprise that the construction industry is adopting various AI technologies. The benefits that AI can provide are still relatively nascent. In the coming years AI will continue to drive cost savings, time savings, and overall improvements and efficiencies to the construction industry.