Smart Construction: How AI and Machine Learning Will Change the Construction Industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is when a computer mimics specific attributes of human cognitive function, while machine learning gives the computer the ability to learn from data, as opposed to being specifically programmed by a human. Here are ten ways that AI and machine learning will transform the construction and engineering industries into what we’ll call “smart construction.”

These days, seemingly everyone is applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. I have written about disruptions in the manufacturing industry, such as Industry 4.0, while illustrating the Hard Trends that indicate where improvements will be made in the future.

The construction industry, which makes up 7% of the global workforce, should already have applied these technologies to improve productivity and revolutionize the industry. However, it has actually progressed quite slowly.

Growth in the construction industry has only been 1% over a few decades while manufacturing is growing at a rate of 3.6%. With the total worker output in construction at a standstill, it is no surprise that the areas where machine learning and AI could improve such statistics were minimal. Yet, those technologies are finally starting to emerge in the industry.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is when a computer mimics specific attributes of human cognitive function, while machine learning gives the computer the ability to learn from data, as opposed to being specifically programmed by a human. Here are ten ways that AI and machine learning will transform the construction and engineering industries into what we’ll call “smart construction.”

  1. Cost Overrun Prevention and Improvement

Even efficient construction teams are plagued by cost overruns on larger-scale projects. AI can utilize machine learning to better schedule realistic timelines from the start, learning from data such as project or contract type, and implement elements of real-time training in order to enhance skills and improve team leadership.

  1. Generative Design for Better Design

When a building is constructed, the sequence of architectural, engineering, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing tasks must be accounted for in order to prevent these specific teams from stepping out of sequence or clashing. Generative design is accomplished through a process called “building information modeling.” Construction companies can utilize generative design to plot out alternative designs and processes, preventing rework.

  1. Risk Mitigation

The construction process involves risk, including quality and safety risks. AI machine learning programs process large amounts of data, including the size of the project, to identify the size of each risk and help the project team pay closer attention to bigger risk factors.

  1. More Productive Project Planning

A recent startup utilized 3D scanning, AI and neural networks to scan a project site and determine the progress of specific sub-projects in order to prevent late and over-budget work. This approach allowed management to jump in and solve problems before they got out of control. Similarly, “reinforcement learning” (machine learning based on trial and error) can help to collate small issues and improve the preparation phase of project planning.

  1. More Productive Job Sites

Professionals often fear machines will replace them. While intelligent machines will take over first repetitive and eventually more cognitively complex positions, this does not mean a lack of jobs for people. Instead, workers will transition to new, more fulfilling and highly productive roles to save time and stay on budget, and AI will monitor human productivity on job sites to provide real-time guidance on improving each operation.

  1. Safety First

Manual labor not only has the potential to be taxing on the body, but also to be incredibly dangerous. Presently, a general contractor is developing an algorithm that analyzes safety hazards seen in imagery taken from a job site, making it possible to hold safety briefings to eliminate elevated danger and improve overall safety on construction sites.

  1. Addressing Job Shortages

AI and machine learning have the capacity to plot out accurate distribution of labor and machinery across different job sites, again preventing budget overruns. One evaluation might reveal where a construction site has adequate coverage while another reveals where it is short staffed, thereby allowing for an efficient and cost-effective repositioning of workers.

  1. Remote Construction

When structures can be partially assembled off-site and then completed on-site, construction goes faster. The concept of using advanced robots and AI to accomplish this remote assembly is new. Assembly line production of something like a wall can be completed while the human workforce focuses on the finish work.

  1. Construction Sites as Data Sources

The data gathered from construction sites and the digital lessons learned by AI and advanced machines are all tools for improving the productivity of the next project. In this way, each construction site can contribute to a virtual textbook of information helpful to the entire industry.

  1. The Finishing Touches

Structures are always settling and shifting slightly. It would be beneficial to be able to dive back into data collated by a computer to track in real time the changes and potential problems faced by a structure — and AI and machine learning make this possible.

Given the inevitable changes on the horizon, and the potential for costs to drop up to 20% or more with increased productivity, professionals in the construction industry must pay attention to Hard Trends, become more anticipatory, and ultimately learn to turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage.

Know What’s Next

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Shape the Future–Before Someone Else Does It For You!

Embracing the Power of Blockchain Technology

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

During the digital transformation, we have witnessed traditional forms of physical media fall out of favor as users abandoned their treasure trove of CDs, DVDs, books, magazines and even photo albums to partake in an entirely clutter-free life. Digitally optimizing our lives has enabled us to remove shelves, cabinets and dust magnets while we get our entertainment fix from the likes of Netflix, Spotify and the endless list of streaming alternatives.

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

Over in Europe, Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden are leading a charge toward a cashless society that will see the end of tooth fairy payments for children, but will equally wave goodbye to a world of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion. The bonus of replacing scrambling around for loose change for a purchase, or riding public transportation with contactless payment by swiping a card or smartphone, is incredibly appealing for most users.

The concept of handing over a handful of silver coins in exchange for any product or service can feel quite primitive in our modern world dominated by technology. However, contactless and smartphone payments are not the end-all, be-all payment options, as there is another game changer in the form of a cyber currency. But does this technology disruptor have the power to transform our traditional banking system?

Blockchain is the digital ledger software code that powers Bitcoin. As this system has grown in popularity, the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters,has her sights set on changing the way banks trade loans and bonds in a way that could dramatically change the way we look at both business and banking. Blythe delivered a massive wake-up call to finance leaders when she compared the influx of changes to the arrival of the internet when she advised, “You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the internet in the 1990s. It’s analogous to email for money.” The speed in which technology trends can go viral illustrates how an internet of finance could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The interesting aspect of Bitcoin is the ability to buy and sell without the need for an intermediary. This represents a paradigm shift in the management and structure of the financial services industry. However, adopting innovation and changing entire ecosystems is not something that the notoriously cautious financial industry and affiliated regulation committees are famed for.

Because this technology has the potential to reduce the role banks play in the lives of individuals, it is understandable why financial institutions are skeptical. However, these developments cannot be written off just yet. They could save consumers and the financial industry billions of dollars while also removing their reliance on middlemen to offer a speedier, modern and more efficient banking experience.

The ultimate goal is to move payments globally much faster while simultaneously becoming more transparent and lowering costs. We will likely begin to witness early adopters making waves in the private market before the ever-cautious big players speak of standardization and implementation. However, there are already a few of them dipping their toes into the water.

According to the PwC, there are already over three hundred technology startups developing ideas that will allow blockchain to revolutionize the financial industry. Big players like Visa and Nasdaq are already investing heavily into a blockchain startup, and there are also plans to modernize the London Market. Lloyds is looking to blockchain technology to improve its data access and reduce costs associated with administrative paperwork.

There are daily stories of heavyweights within the financial industry becoming increasingly eager to capture the tamper-proof benefits offered by a future web-based cryptocurrency. Technology leaders such as Microsoft also have thrown their hats into the ring to demonstrate the possibilities that blockchain technology can offer.

There is exciting potential to completely revolutionize the way in which the finance industry works. But in its infancy, many will continue to exercise great caution before rushing into a shiny electronic cash system that is fully peer-to-peer. The future of cash and pockets full of loose change is indeed looking numbered, as many wonder if in just a few years we will be looking back at our quaint primitive payment methods in the same way many do with physical media now.

Cryptocurrencies that thrive in a transparent environment might seem like a foreign concept today, but the rise of blockchain technology is one Hard Trend that will quickly prove to be impossible to ignore.

Finance trends can be anticipated – when you know how to look. The Anticipatory Organization Model has the power to shift an organization’s operating mindset from the default of reacting and responding to changes coming from the outside in, to a place of empowerment by anticipating and shaping the future from the inside out.

Don’t Miss AR’s Amazing Opportunities

Augmented reality (AR) is a new industry growing at an exponential rate, loaded with opportunities for job creation. It offers a playground for entrepreneurs who want to use the certainty of Hard Trends to their advantage.

Augmented reality (AR) is a new industry growing at an exponential rate, loaded with opportunities for job creation. It offers a playground for entrepreneurs who want to use the certainty of Hard Trends to their advantage.

What’s most exciting about AR is that it is much easier to develop than virtual reality (VR), which requires a lot of programming and photo-realistic graphics in order to create a fully immersive virtual world.

AR takes less time and money to develop. Data is overlaid onto a live view of something, and users can multitask, allowing them to work while simultaneously accessing important information.

Both AR and VR have a bright future, but AR represents a much more dynamic world of opportunity. For example, I use an AR app that allows me to hold my smartphone up to any mountain, and the app will tell me the height of the mountain, the length of the trails, and other useful data that can help me determine where I might want to hike, climb or bike on vacation.

AR can also engage tourists who are in a new city for the first time. When you’re on a street in New York, you can tell an app what type of shoes you’re looking for, and all you have to do is hold your smartphone up and pan around to see if any nearby stores have what you want.

Soon we’ll be wearing AR glasses that are connected via Bluetooth to an AR app that will allow keynote speakers like myself to see the people we’re talking to, but also see their names, and by moving our fingers along the earpiece of the glasses, we’ll switch from no data to full data.

The Augmented Reality Job Market

We are in the beginning stages of a burgeoning AR market. I would highly recommend entering the world of AR professionally sooner than later. The wide-scale application of AR is only limited by our imaginations, and early developers in the field have barely scratched the surface of what is possible.

Given the wide range of industries that will benefit from AR, I predict that in the next few years we will see a multitude of usages, especially when AR glasses hit the market. Likewise, the glasses themselves will be more aesthetically pleasing thanks to the growth of miniaturization. Prescription AR glasses will be made available for those who need them, changing the usage dynamic from smartphone apps to wearables.

If you are considering a career in AR, it’s important to think about the ideal industry that would benefit from it, such as sales, service, maintenance and repair, factories, retail stores, and real estate offices. There’s a market for it in the trades as well, as AR glasses can be used to help people train quickly to become tradespeople to keep up with growing demand.

Within five years, we will see high-fashion AR glasses worn by many people. Data will be more frequently overlaid on our surrounding environment, and video media will be included. It is already possible to 3-D print a 4K camera that is the size of a fly’s eye, and with advances in solar charging, getting energy from ambient light will help us avoid the concern of charging AR glasses.

The Positives and the Negatives

With every new industry there are positives and negatives. In augmented reality, the greatest positive is quite clear: increasing humankind’s ability to make better decisions faster.

However, there is always a downside that we must look to solve before it occurs. The most obvious risk is that you might be paying more attention to the data than to the visual reality and walk into danger. When it comes to using digital technology, there is always a time to unplug. The concept of misinformation also exists, where the data overlaying your environment could be hacked and also put you in danger. Always remember to anticipate risks and think critically.

The future is bright for augmented reality for entrepreneurs and consumers. Ultimately, the industry will develop practical uses much faster than in the world of virtual reality. Virtual reality business applications will find many great niche markets, but augmented reality can be used by anyone anywhere due to the user’s ability to multitask.

The best thing about augmented reality is that you can use it while still interacting with the real world, which is very powerful. It does not encourage us to close ourselves off from our physical existence; it allows us to see insightful information in real time. It will give us a new way to discover the hidden facts that bring the things in our world to life.

We’re only at the base of the mountain of change, and the time to start your climb upward is now!

Technology-driven change is accelerating at an exponential rate, but moving fast in the wrong direction will only get you into trouble faster! Reacting to problems and digital disruptions, no matter how agile you and your organization are, is no longer good enough. If you don’t already have a copy of my latest bestselling book The Anticipatory Organization, click here to get your copy now!