The Risks & Rewards of AI in Construction
AI is now a reality and shaking up many industries. With constant talk of jobs at risk and fears of robotic superpowers, is anyone really safe? You don’t get much more hands-on than the construction industry so logic would say that until robotics capabilities develop substantially, most construction jobs are pretty ‘safe’. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. So what exactly are the risks, and the benefits of AI in construction? Let’s find out.
In this article, we’re going to look at where AI can potentially assist in some of the most dangerous and challenging construction tasks and find out which jobs are most at risk of becoming obsolete thanks to artificial intelligence.
AI in Construction: The Risks
Automation isn’t a new concept in construction and other heavy industries. Mining was an early adopter and the industry has benefitted from automating many of the most hazardous tasks with robotic machinery and outdated processes have been streamlined using automation software leading to huge increases in productivity. It’s also safer. There are fewer non-fatal incidents than ever before. But fatalities are still all too common and until the need for human intervention is removed, the risks in heavy industries will remain.
So where are the robots when we need them? Automation and AI are fundamentally different and although one is needed to help the other perform at its peak, there’s still a way to go before AI can help remove the risks from the most hazardous jobs entirely. One day robots will be commonplace to assist with the physical aspects of mining, building and other dangerous careers but it’s going to be a while before AI replaces human intervention in many manual tasks.
The role of the construction labourer faces barely any risk of becoming extinct anytime soon thanks to the physical nature of the role. Civil Engineers are almost entirely unaffected too. So who will be most affected? According to willrobotstakemyjob.com, Building and Construction Inspectors are most at risk of being replaced by AI, with a 24% chance of the job function being completely automated in the near future.
At the same time, there will be job functions that are greatly accelerated by AI, by allowing the same person complete more work in the same amount of time.
AI in Construction: The Rewards
Digital Twins in Construction
Digital Twins are one of the most interesting developments in the construction lifecycle and artificial intelligence will play a large part in their development and success but for now, construction jobs remain reasonably safe from replacement by robots.
Digital Twins are a virtual replica of a physical object. You can make a digital twin of an apple, a vehicle, a construction site or a building. Using a concept called reality mapping, you can now use data captured from multiple sources to create a digital replica of your site or point of interest.
Useful Reading: What is a Digital Twin?
Reality mapping with drones is a growing practice, thanks to the ability to capture large amounts of data remotely and quickly. You can then turn the drone data into a highly detailed 3D map or model of your project to be able to inspect each element quickly and without sending someone into a potentially hazardous environment. But 3D is old-hat now. If you inspect your asset or target over a period of time, with the right software you can build a 4D map or model that allows you to track progress, make measurements, and monitor structural defects or areas of risk.
What is 4D Mapping? Watch Now
But where does AI come in?
Sometimes there’s just too much data. The data processing side of surveying has historically been a complex process. 10 years ago you would have needed a data specialist to delve into the detail to then produce a report that most people could understand. These days, drone data is a lot more visual and it’s much easier to get meaningful insights without being a software expert. AI makes it even more simple. Using artificial intelligence you can now take a 4D model and ask for those specific insights, just like using a smart assistant. Instead of having to manually check the measurements from the model at each stage of the construction process, AI does it for you. If you want to know how long each stage of the construction took, you can have an answer in seconds.
AI is capable of sifting through huge amounts of data and identifying patterns or extracting information that could take the human brain hours to find. This can be critical when it comes to projects running on time as well as for the safety of hazardous sites where small changes could be life-threatening.
BIM and AI
Building Information Modeling relies on quality data from multiple sources. In the design and construction process, there will be multiple teams working on a project at any one time. All of this data ideally needs to be assimilated into one model. Utilities, mechanical, electrical and architectural companies will all have a different way of planning and recording their part of the project. Using AI, project managers can now gain information from different data streams and merge models together to get a full picture.
Risk & Reward
In construction, the risks to human life are numerous. Nothing is more important than site safety. Having a dedicated resource who can keep an eye on critical safety issues 24 hours a day is a pipe dream for many construction companies. AI and machine learning methods are going to be key to spotting risk factors as or even before they become a problem.
AI can be used to detect change. This does require the need for regular site surveys to be carried out but once you have data for comparison, artificial intelligence can give you results in seconds.
AI technology has also already been developed to retrospectively match site incidents with specific tasks to highlight any areas or jobs that may be at higher risk.
In an industry where the risks are so high it makes sense to remove as many people as possible from harm's way. Reality mapping, drone data and 4D models can all help to realise a safer environment as well as assist in projects running more efficiently. But with all of this technology comes data and that’s what AI really loves. Instead of spending hours delving through terabytes of data points, AI will extract exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.
The future of AI in construction will be largely influenced by the adoption of the digital twin. The true scope for the digital twin is yet to be realised but with AI and machine learning you will you will be able to turn your 3D model from a doll's house into a fully functional ‘living’ thing.
Don’t forget, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is just that. It’s not an absolute replacement for human intervention but ignore it at your peril!
Hammer Missions can help you to create 3D models and digital twins of your assets and sites using drone images. To find out more about using drone data to create digital twins, contact our team or take a look at our support pages.
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