September 23, 2019

How Artificial Intelligence Will Help Improve the Construction Industry

It’s no secret that the construction industry lacks technological advancement while most other industries are taking full advantage of it. According to Constructible, the industry has only grown about 1 percent per year over the course of the last several decades, while manufacturing has grown 3.6 percent and the entire world economy by 2.8 percent. It’s also infamous for its poor planning and budgeting, miscalculations, and cost overruns. New and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) will help the industry overcome challenges, keep up with the global economy, and improve construction sites.

Here are ways the construction sector will benefit from artificial intelligence:

Safer Jobsites

Construction sites are one of the most unsafe environments. In fact, according to OSHA, one in five worker deaths in 2017 were in construction. Accidents happen for a variety of reasons but wearing the proper equipment at all times is the best place to start preventing injury from occurring. A 2010 survey conducted by the American Society of Safety Engineers found that 98% of respondents noticed workers not wearing proper safety equipment when they should have been. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a mandatory standard across the board on most construction sites. Thanks to the latest technology, companies can better protect their workers than ever before.

Technology such as wearables and image recognition software are helping to create safer jobsites. Wearables such as safety vests, hard hats, and “smart clothing” are being created by a New York-based company called Human Condition that are designed to help prevent jobsite injuries and fatalities. Safety vests and hard hats are integrated with computers, sensors, GPS capabilities, and real-time locating systems, allowing data to be gathered from the devices in real-time so site supervisors can monitor workers at all times. According to Construct Connect, “the safety vest includes an airbag collar that would inflate should a worker fall and would monitor vital signs and repetitive motions”, while the hard hat is equipped with LEDs to serve as a work light and a safety feature. Additionally, the company is developing “smart clothing” that will monitor workers’ vital signs, track their movements, determine if they are under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and if they are suffering from fatigue. These wearables will greatly improve jobsite safety and help supervisors to better monitor their workers’ conditions to make sure they’re working in a safe manner.

Another tool that will help to better jobsite safety is an image recognition software developed by The AI engine, Very Intelligent Neural Network for Insight & Evaluation, or VINNIE is trained to identify if workers are wearing proper PPE and alert supervisors when someone is improperly dressed. This advanced technology will help supervisors monitor jobsites for safety in real-time, allowing issues to be addressed before an accident occurs.

Increased Productivity

With advanced AI technology, construction jobsites will see a drastic increase in productivity and efficiency. Autonomous construction equipment, or self-operating construction machinery, is being used to perform repetitive tasks such as pouring concrete, excavating, demolition, and bricklaying. The autonomous machines are equipped with 3D mapping, cameras, GPS capabilities, and sensors that provide real-time data for the AI to be able to tell the machines where to go and what to do. Real-time monitoring of the equipment ensures the projects are being completed accurately and efficiently.

Additionally, with the growing threat of worker shortages within the industry, AI will help to alleviate the skilled workforce that exists. According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk, “80 percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions”. Albeit implementing self-operating construction machinery is a hefty investment, doing so allows human workers to focus their efforts on the actual construction project, helping to reduce the time it takes to complete a project.

Improved Planning & Scheduling

One area where construction firms can always use more assistance is planning and scheduling. In order to deliver projects on-time and within budget, scheduling needs to be on-top of the ball so when unexpected problems arise, contingency plans are ready to go, and schedules can be adjusted accordingly. This can be a daunting, time-consuming task, but an area where AI will shine.

AI-enabled scheduling assistants help alleviate the stress of scheduling by evaluating millions of existing schedules based on specific parameters and creating the optimal schedule for a project. Project managers can adjust specific criteria such as number of workers, equipment, and building materials, to see how those factors will affect the cost and time frame of a project.

Artificial intelligence within the construction industry can and will be extremely powerful. Implementing AI applications can help to reduce jobsite injuries and fatalities, increase productivity, and enhance project scheduling, ultimately saving construction companies time and money. Companies that embrace and prioritize advanced technology such as AI will reap the benefits in the short and long-term.