Smart Technology and Smarter Data
The Key to Survival for the Construction Industry in the Post COVID-19 World
- AI offers unique opportunities for the construction industry to remain profitable, productive, and safe in the post-pandemic era
- Augmented Reality (AR) opens up contactless ways for architects, builders, and contractors to collaborate
- Computer vision and robotics reveal better methods to monitor worksites, move equipment, track temperatures, and share data while keeping a social distance
- Natural Language Processing (NLP) makes working together while being physically apart easier and more efficient than ever before
Smart data-fueled technology is no longer just a novel option in the post-pandemic era. As we reopen our economy while also bracing for the second wave, AI-informed technologies have become an absolute necessity to cultivate the contactless, safe workspaces we need to succeed.
This is especially true for the construction industry, which stands to gain in speed, accuracy, and safety simply by finding innovative ways to integrate AI technologies into existing operations. Making real advances towards embracing the potential of these technologies comes down to one thing- building the right digital products to capitalize on the potential of AI tools specifically for the construction sector.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Redefine Your World
Augmented Reality, or AR, unlocks incredible new ways to reimagine our physical spaces.
AR has been used as a sales tool for a while in the real estate sector, giving buyers an up-close look at what an empty space might grow into in two months or two years. But the real potential of AR for the construction industry is its ability to transform physical places into 3D digital workspaces. Never before has this been more valuable, relevant, or critical as colleagues adapt to working together while keeping their social distance.
A Silicon Valley start-up called SPATIAL is integrating AR into a customized digital product that recreates workspaces in 3D. For multi-disciplinary construction and trade professionals, spatially-aware workspaces offer a groundbreaking way to collaborate, brainstorm, and share data about the many aspects of a project before they ever meet in person.
Digital workspaces also have real promise as a classroom for apprentices to learn new skills. So far, AR as a training tool is becoming more common in the medical field, opening up the door to similar uses in other sectors.
The real key to making the most of AR and other disruptive technologies is to develop sophisticated digital products like apps, websites, and tools, and utilities. These digital products carry these technology tools one step further, from a flashy invention into an impactful tool.
Tools That Can See Give Better Insights
Computer vision is another technology that has real transformative potential for the building industry. Computer vision gives machines ‘sight’ through cameras and sensors so that they can make observations about the physical world.
Computer vision-enabled digital products and devices are already used on many construction and industrial sites. These tools analyze workspaces and alert employees and companies about potentially dangerous situations before they become disasters. This could be a light that flashes when a worker goes to pick up an object that is too heavy, or it might sound an emergency alarm that activates when scaffolding exceeds maximum capacity.
In this age of social distancing, a digital spotter to support employees working in potentially dangerous workspaces is especially important. After all, the risks found in industrial workspaces are just as prevalent — and potentially dangerous — as before. Computer Vision when combined with object detection using deep learning algorithms can also be employed for inspection of construction material components, further reducing the number of staff needed on the job site.
As this technology gains popularity, it’s also becoming smarter, drawing on existing machine learning algorithms to improve its accuracy and, ultimately, worker safety. Now, with the new demands of the post-COVID world, this growth is only going to be accelerated.
See SPOT run
Computer vision becomes even more interesting when merged with robotics. We see a perfect partnership of these disruptive technologies in Boston Dynamic’s SPOT.
SPOT is an agile mobile robot that uses computer vision sensors to perform remote inspections in areas that are too hazardous for humans to go, like gas and electricity installations. These robots constantly take in data and use it to navigate different terrains, solve basic problems, and collect information for their human owners. Boston Dynamic is also exploring SPOT’s potential to monitor the health and temperature of employees at worksites using thermal camera technology.
Drones are another example of the way computer vision, robotics, and smart data can combine to increase the safety and efficiency of the construction industry. More and more, companies are making the most of digital products that translate aerial drone images into surveying and mapping data. These images can also be analyzed by purpose-specific digital tools as an indicator of how closely on-the-ground work is following blueprints and timelines.
In many places, construction is considered an essential service, with demands that don’t stop during periods of stay-at-home orders. Robotics-powered tools like SPOT give companies a new way to move physical items around without human contact. Drones provide invaluable data that give small socially distanced crews a comprehensive picture of the entire project, even when they can’t go visit colleagues at the next worksite over.
Again, it all comes down to building the right digital products to perform the roles needed during this evolution in the way the industrial sectors work together.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Giving Language Meaning
Like many industries, construction relies on a paper trail to function well. The info captured in notes, spreadsheets, and contracts is valuable and needed, but sometimes processing it all into a succinct digital document can feel like an impossible task.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is already helping many companies cut down on this daunting administrative task. NLP has made it possible for users to scan printed documents and have that info uploaded into a useful Excel spreadsheet or a Word file in an instant.
Not only that, but apps built on this technology can take the data they collect, and turn that info into succinct and usable notes that highlight the important takeaways for the user. This technology can also let users know which words are used more frequently in documents, and gather overall analytics on trends.
For construction companies looking to limit the number of crew on-site in accordance with social distancing regulations, NLP offers an instantaneous way to keep engineers, architects, and project managers in the loop while also allowing them to continue working from home.
The Next Move Is Up To You
The Potential is Limitless
This is a time of huge transitions in both the construction and technology worlds. It’s a critical moment for companies to embrace and make the most of AI tools to keep things running smoothly in the post-pandemic era.
But to truly leverage the technologies discussed here, it’s crucial for companies to first develop compatible digital tools like apps, websites, and utilities. This is what will allow them to create efficient user experiences, ensure that their technology is serving specific goals and targets, collecting usable data, and supporting their company through this time of change.
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