Artificial Intelligence: How It's Affecting the Construction Industry
AI, which stands for Artificial Intelligence, is a technology that describes giving a computer or machine the ability to mimic the human thinking process. It’s an artificial or fake simulation of human intelligence. What makes the intelligence “artificial” is that computer programmed problem solving removes emotion, morals and consciousness from the decision-making process. But what does AI have to do with the construction industry? And where did AI come from?
The History of Artificial Intelligence
The concept of inanimate objects having thoughts, personalities or soul dates back hundreds of years. Many myths and lore talk about master craftsmen putting so much skill, love and thought into their objects that they gift them the power of consciousness. Most contractors can understand that concept: after spending time building something with their hands, the project becomes a being that lives and breathes in a way.
Ancient philosophers also tried to break down the human thought process and analyze our minds. It was a bit more technical than the myths though because their analysis focused on the human “mind” acting through interpretation and manipulation of symbols, numbers and patterns.
So, the idea of objects being able to “think”, or being able to copy or break down the human mind to a predictable set of patterns has been around for generations.
Computers and programmable machines that can actually think and learn on their own are the results of computer technology becoming more streamlined and accessible. In the 1950s, it would cost a business $200,000 a month to lease a computer so the technology was only used by large universities, corporations or governments. For advancements to happen in computer tech, it needed to be way more cost-efficient to use. Of course, as interest in the power of computers grew, this supply-demand chain leveled off and computers became more widely used and approachable.
The 1970s and Onward
AI began to boom in the 1970s as more people became knowledgeable about computer technology. Coding language and programming grew more advanced. New programs and software were invented and the use of computer technology passed the point of no return.
Artificial Intelligence As We Think Of It Today
The concept of Artificial Intelligence is complex today. Deep learning and big data are two branches of AI that have grown as the use of this technology evolved. Deep learning is a programmed system with multiple layers of processing designed for complex problems. Big data is the collection and processing of information and - yes - data that simply wouldn’t be possible without the use of computers.
In many cases, though, AI isn’t necessarily that complex and is used in daily life more often than you would think. If you’ve ever played against a computer in games, unlocked your phone with face recognition, scrolled through a social media feed or received recommended news alerts, you’ve interacted with AI.
AI In Construction
AI is used in construction in so many ways. It is a tech tool that helps to simplify and automate mundane and time-consuming tasks, can improve efficiencies and reduce risk on construction sites. The major way it does this is by using machine thinking to process data in a much more in-depth and automatic way to identify challenges and issues faster than a human ever could. It also removes the risk of human error or “missing” something. In construction, mistakes in planning or risk assessment could mean the difference between a safe day on site and one where an accident happens. Mistakes can also cost a lot of time and money.
Artificial intelligence is used to schedule and order materials to reduce waste and streamline building timelines. These programs - and there are many different types of them - compare the projected project timeline to actual production to adjust and update due dates and order schedules as needed. In many situations, these programs actually work with IoT technology to automatically receive reports and images, read and analyze those images and update timelines accordingly. By streamlining the ordering process and reducing waste, AI can also help keep budgets in check by reducing unnecessary spending.
Surveillance systems now use AI to identify any materials, people, or vehicles that are out of place and automatically report on abnormalities. Through AI tech, site supervisors can be alerted if anyone enters the site at night or without permission, adding to the value of on site surveillance in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible before.
There’s also a big safety aspect to AI on construction sites. Artificial intelligence can sync with on site tracking, fall technology and building reports to identify safety hazards before or at the exact moment when an accident happens. When pairing AI with site planning and BIM (Building Information Modeling) potential safety hazards or dangerous areas can be located before the project even starts.
Adding Value to Construction
AI is a complicated technology that can seem incredibly intimidating. It’s often looked at as the stuff from sci-fi films or horror movies. AI, however, is an incredibly powerful tool that can streamline so many processes, can make construction sites safer and can provide value to the industry in new ways. The construction industry uses and collects so much data that it almost needs a computerized mind to make sense of it all.
As AI becomes more available and user-friendly, you can bet that Artificial Intelligence will be seen on construction sites more and more in the future.