Often, the concept of AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics are combined into one futuristic notion of how advanced intelligence and technology will impact business. However, the concepts—each very different in nature—serve a specific purpose on construction jobsites today and will only expand in the future.
How will artificial intelligence impact the construction industry? It is important to identify where we have been and where we are going with regards to artificial intelligence in construction.
Dan Kara, research director, robotics, ABI Research, says many consider robotics to be a subset of artificial intelligence—but it is not.
“Robotics systems, those technologies that sense, think and then act in the physical world, can make use of artificial intelligence techniques such as machine learning for the ‘thinking’ component, but it is not a necessity,” he explains. “In fact, most of the robotics systems in operation today do not. That will change, of course.”
So where does this leave the construction industry today? How will this impact the jobsite in the future? Answering these questions is key.
At its core, Kara says, robotics are becoming more common on jobsites for applications such as bricklaying, concrete dispensing, welding, demolition, and more.
This trend is seen in numerous analyst reports as well, as organizations such as Technavio are forecasting that increased R&D spending will boost global robotics.
In addition, as these robots and robotics technologies become more autonomous and intelligent through the use of AI techniques, they will be used in a growing number of new construction applications, continues Kara.
Digging into this a bit deeper, the construction industry is set to benefit in two distinct ways. The first is that AI will support many of the functions common to all business, such as human resources. Second, AI can help with business management to determine demand forecasting and scheduling.
Looking specifically at the construction industry, AI techniques can be used to optimize development and quality control testing of products and design structures.
“Currently, the use of AI on jobsites is limited,” explains Kara. “But it is growing, particularly in applications involving machine vision for surveying and analyzing materials and structures, or for robotics applications such as automated bricklaying or autonomous vehicles.”
He says research is currently being conducted for ways to leverage AI to predict injuries, improve human-machine interfaces for construction equipment, and for architectural surveying.
Carol Hagen of Hagen Business Solutions, adds that AI has the potential to catapult the construction industry by merely capturing every human experience from design to delivery.
Essentially, deducing from the past can help predict the future and gain knowledge across industries along the way.
When it comes to the construction industry, AI has the potential to help reimagine how processes are done—such as BIM (building information modeling).
Hagen says AI will identify true collisions versus false ones in BIM. “For new building design, AI will identify missing elements like waterproofing for specs for stadiums.”
Additionally, lessons learned will not be missed across corporate project teams, as tribal knowledge will become AI knowledge, she explains. Such knowledge is contained in daily reports, schedules, weather forecasts, daily project progress, and more.