Beyond VINNIE: How AI works for the construction industry

What does AI actually mean? It’s a term thrown around all the time in media and tech circles used to describe anything from the latest app to full-on doomsday robots. Wikipedia defines AI as “intelligence demonstrated by machines,” versus natural intelligence shown by humans and other animals. Since AI is still nowhere close to the any human-like “intelligence,” its working definition usually refers to software that’s very good at accomplishing narrowly defined tasks.

productivity on construction site

AI’s influence might not yet be obvious in your daily work, but executives stakeholders can’t afford to stay in the dark much longer. Thanks to an explosion of data from increasingly digitized construction processes and dramatic advances in machine learning, AI tools are making their mark in construction. Here are some examples of companies paving the way, using AI-powered technology to improve efficiency and safety, and seeing major results:

  • Most construction projects end up behind schedule. It can take months to match the building sequence with the availability of contractors and materials; even when a schedule is in place, there’s no way to tell whether it’s the most efficient way to keep meeting project goals. Managers can now consider a few AI-powered solutions to improve project cycles, all the way from planning to monitoring to delivering. That’s the goal of ALICEa scheduling engine that looks at millions of ways to build a project, guiding you to the best schedule fit for your time & cost requirements needs. With ALICE, you can easily the schedule implications and impacts from changing critical parameters like number of crews or type of cranes.
  • Doxel is an AI-based application similar to ALICE, but operating more as a full service provider than a traditional software vendor. Doxel uses rovers and drones to capture progress on a construction site in full 3D, then inspects it real-time and compares it against original plans, budget, and schedule. Project managers then use progressive information to track labor productivity and make adjustments to keep the project on schedule. Doxel’s AI can also detect errors in the construction by comparing visual data from everyday scans of the jobsite to small scale design models.
  • Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field includes a safety tool that can easily be used to complement Smarvid.io’s visual monitoring. Project IQ is a built-in application that analyzes a jobsite’s logged safety issues, then flags the ones that could be the most fatal.OSHA shows that around 67% of all construction-related fatalities in 2015 were caused by issues related to the “fatal four": falls, struck by accidents, caught between incidents, and electrocutions. IQ’s algorithm prioritizes things most likely linked to the fatal four, giving safety managers an easy way to focus planning and training efforts, and highlighting specific problems to be on the watch for on safety walks.

Productivity levels in construction have trailed other sectors for decades, but these are just a few examples of what AI-powered tools companies are now using to work smarter. As you make decisions for your company, take a broader look at how this shift in technology can and should add value to what you do — as a first step, consider focusing your R&D efforts on digitization (McKinsey research finds that digitized AEC companies are 50% more likely to generate profit from updated technology.) Complacency is dangerous when it comes to AI, and in tomorrow’s workplace, only informed companies will survive. Don’t get left behind!

Topics: AEC Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Safety



About the Author

Josh Kanner

Josh Kanner has been involved in enterprise-focused software startups since 2000 with a focus in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry since 2005.

Most recently he was co-founder of Vela Systems, a pioneer in the use of web and tablet workflows for construction and capital projects. There he led the company’s product, marketing, and business development functions. Vela Systems grew from bootstrapped beginnings to include over 50% of the ENR Top Contractors as customers and deployments all over the globe. The company was successfully acquired by Autodesk in 2012 and has been rebranded as BIM 360 Field.

Prior to founding Vela Systems, Josh was responsible for product management and strategy at Emptoris (now part of IBM), a web-based strategic sourcing software company with customers including Motorola, GlaxoSmithKline, Bank of America, and American Express.

Kanner graduated from Brown University and earned an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He still gets excited to put on a hard hat and walk a job.

View more posts by Josh Kanner.

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Using AI to predict and prevent construction incidents