Hot Construction Technology: AI

ALICE Technologies featured on Connected World | 'Hot Construction Technology: AI' 

It can easily be said that AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the most disruptive technologies of this decade, as it is impacting nearly every vertical market—and construction is no exception. For today’s blog in our “Hot Construction Technology” series, let’s narrow deep into the wide world of AI, with very specific examples for construction.

Broadly, AI is set to impact nearly every industry, with Gartner forecasting worldwide AI software revenue will total $62.5 billion this year, up 21.3% from 2021. The top five use cases across all industries include knowledge management, virtual assistants, autonomous vehicles, digital workplace, and crowdsourced data. Naturally, construction would stand to benefit from many of these.

Looking specifically at construction, Mordor Intelligence says the AI in construction market was valued at $466.9 million in 2020 and it is projected to be worth roughly $2.3 billion by 2026, which is a 33.87% growth rate. The benefits are clear. AI can help construction with everything from preconstruction planning to BIM (building information modeling), generative design, jobsite safety, monitoring site progress, fleet management, and everything in between. As Peggy Smedley always says, the opportunities are endless.

The timing is interesting too. Construction is in the midst of losing many skilled workers due to retirement and the pandemic, and few are entering to fill in the gaps. Technology is needed now more than ever to improve efficiency and keep projects humming along.

For today, let’s look at two very specific examples of AI in construction—although my bet is the technology you are already using in your office and at your jobsites likely have AI capabilities that you aren’t even aware of yet. It might be worth having a conversation with existing providers about new features that they are offering.

But, for now, it’s time to dig into specific AI examples. The first is ALICE Technologies. We can’t have a conversation about AI in construction without mentioning ALICE Technologies. The company was founded back in 2013 based on research from Stanford University. The objective is to help large contractors reduce risk and plan, bid, and build more efficiently.

Here’s how it works. The platform can be used on key projects from preconstruction through project delivery. During preconstruction, contractors use ALICE for optioneering to explore the scenarios that make the most efficient use of project resources like labor, equipment, and materials. With the technology, users can test the impact of changes in key variables on project outcomes.

Consider this example. A manager can use the platform to determine if it makes sense to add a third crane to a project. The technology creates and tests options to enable the construction company to submit precise, well-tested bids. Contractors can then use it to keep projects on time and on budget. If circumstances do change (which never happens, right?), contractors can then use ALICE to quickly update project plans and recover from project delays.

It seems investors are also eyeing AI in construction. ALICE Technologies announced a $30 million funding round in June, which will be used to fuel greater adoption of the technology in construction.

While ALICE was one of the earliest examples of AI at work in construction, it has a bit of competition these days in the world of AI. As just one other example, Constru, a company focused on computer vision technology in the construction industry, recently announced its entrance to the U.S. market, with the opening of a new headquarters in Chicago, as well as other offices in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Austin. The company also has locations in Tel Aviv and Asia Pacific.

The company was originally founded by seasoned construction and technology experts who are familiar with the lack of clear data in construction. After working on similar technology for autonomous vehicles, they aimed to use computer vision and AI to give greater insights into construction projects, ultimately improving the bottomline.

Constru’s software platform uses computer vision to turn captured jobsite imagery into analytics that drive better performance on construction projects. The technology tracks more than 250 elements of a construction project and then offers insights to help control costs, optimize team and process efficiencies, and identify discrepancies and quality issues.

With a lack of workers, a greater need for project efficiency, and the ability to drill deeper into project data, the construction industry is poised for a big shift. Prepare for an entirely new generation of solutions, ones that leverage AI more than ever before.

Read the feature on Connected World here.

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