An overview of AI and how the technology is being used by top construction firms in 2021

Introduction

Technology is moving rapidly in the construction industry and is touching all areas of the ecosystem. From the digital transformation of the design process to new preconstruction estimation software, scheduling, predictive analytics, and asset management, new construction technology companies and startups are shaking up the industry at an exciting pace. With these new technologies and industry-wide digital transformation comes data – and lots of it.

And with lots of data, opportunities for AI emerge across the entire project lifecycle:

In this article, we will provide an overview of the field of artificial intelligence as well as examples of AI use-cases top construction firms are currently pursuing in 2021.

Artificial Intelligence: A Primer

Artificial intelligence (AI) leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. It is a field that combines computer science, domain understanding, and robust datasets to enable automated predictions and problem-solving.

Today, a lot of hype surrounds AI, especially as to how it relates to applications in industry – whether it is in construction, healthcare, or manufacturing. There is significant enthusiasm for its potential for impact across every sector, and right now construction leaders are at the forefront of imagining “what is possible.”

As these discussions about imagining the possibilities for AI are occurring, there are also critical questions industry leaders and data scientists are asking regarding ethical considerations as well, ranging from privacy concerns to building systems that benefit society as a whole.

Key Definitions

Within the AI space and applications for construction, three areas, in particular, are emerging as critically important to solving the industry’s biggest challenges: Data Strategy, Machine Vision, and Intelligent Document Processing.

Data Strategy is vital to every organization as it helps identify highly valuable data and connects this data to fulfilling the core objectives of the company.  This enables business leaders to manage data more like valuable assets – than byproducts of business activity – and it drives competitive advantage.

Data strategy is based on two dimensions: 1) Core business strategy, including goals and objectives; 2) The state of the business’ data assets. By understanding 1 and 2, a firm can devise a future state (“what success looks like”) and a roadmap for how to get there. Here are some examples of data strategy in action.

Machine Vision is the capability of a computer to visually perceive the environment. Immense amounts of images and video data are too time-consuming for humans to process. Machine vision leverages the latest technologies and methods to inspect and analyze visual data so it can be used in inquiries and controls, processes, and other applications reliant on accurate “sight.”  This includes object detection, object tracking, and activity tracking in both real-time and retrospective capacities, for a variety of purposes, including the following: project management, scheduling, health & safety, audit & compliance, and more. Learn more about Machine Vision here.

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) is a new AI-driven approach to automating the categorization of documents, extracting data from documents, and creating documents. IDP is used to turn data from these documents, including unstructured data (text, video, images, and more) into a structured format for rapid and accurate processing and information retrieval and vice versa. An IDP model is tailored to the unique environment and document handling needs of a particular organization.  IDP is actively applied in healthcare, financial services, insurance, supply chain, and legal industries today and has enormous potential for applications across the entire construction industry.

Artificial Intelligence:  Construction Use-Cases in 2021

In general, AI is best for addressing the following kinds of business challenges:

  • Automating repetitive tasks;
  • Generating useful insights from large volumes of data;
  • Predicting outcomes; and
  • Optimizing processes. 

Industry leaders are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic focused on innovating faster and responding better to future challenges. They are leveraging existing tools, site camera data, and applying analytics to optimize productivity, maximize profits, and ensure health and safety compliance.

Essential to any successful AI project in construction is having a robust dataset. With data, opportunities emerge – from design management to preconstruction, prefabrication, construction, resource and equipment management, operations, scheduling and staffing, health and safety compliance, and project retrospectives. 

IDP is particularly useful for construction companies managing a large volume of documents such as invoices, change orders, blueprints, contracts, and client correspondence, which cannot be fully processed by existing software. One immediate use-case for IDP in construction companies is to respond to the dramatic fluctuations in the cost of wood, and handling the massive amounts of documents that result.

How Synaptiq Can Help

Founded in 2015, Synaptiq is a data science and AI consultancy with over 50 clients in more than 20 sectors worldwide. Strengthened by experience and expertise, we help organizations leverage data and AI to streamline processes, increase productivity, and drive innovation. For more information, please visit www.synaptiq.ai.

Additional Reading