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Insights into the ideas and innovations that are transforming project planning and delivery

Capitalizing on the Construction Technology Data Opportunity

In Part I of our October "Trailblazers" series, Tauhira AliSenior Manager, Construction Technology for Milwaukee Tool, shared her role and background as well as her views on how to drive innovation at an organization while making technology more people-centric.

In Part II of our interview, Ali discusses promising emerging AEC technologies and how organizations can improve their decision-making by leveraging data. Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the interview.

BK: Which technologies have the biggest opportunity in our industry?

TA: Simon Sinek’s idea of starting with the “why” is powerful. In terms of which technologies are presenting the best opportunities, I always dial it back to: "Why do people need these technologies?"

There are three key areas in which people can differentiate and create those big opportunities: 1) empowering people 2) helping people do good work, and 3) helping people do it efficiently.  
 
Empowering people includes a lot of things: project coordination, personal coordination, collaboration, helping people build software ecosystems, helping people with ergonomics and safety, etc. Ultimately, how do you empower people so they’re able to have more awareness and be more in tune to what’s happening on the job site? 

Transformational AEC technologies

There are many transformational technologies in our space that are helping people do good work. Exciting innovations are happening in terms of manufacturing strategies, composites, environmental mapping, and sustainable construction.

I’m excited about things like driving efficiency through connected equipment, automated machineries, data visualization, off-site construction, and inventory management (i.e., knowing where your stuff is or when it gets delivered).
 
All these things are powered by different technologies. The transformational element is focusing on why you would be applying that process or strategy. From there, the specific details of the technology help actualize the solution.

It’s important to understand, at all levels of engagement, what successful implementation looks like. Once you get that buy-in from the “why”, a lot of the other implementation pieces start to seamlessly fall into place.

BK: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for machine learning and AI in terms of used cases and applications?

TA: The biggest opportunities around AI and machine learning have a lot to do with data and how that data can be used to drive action. It’s about how you can create predictive models to identify patterns and make better-informed decisions.
 
So again, it goes back to the areas where AI and machine learning are most applicable to construction. How can we learn from the past or take in environmental data to plan more proactively?

How can we better understand and predict things, like how likely you are to complete a job on time? Or how likely might a schedule change or a safety incident occur?

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"For the short-term, the biggest way that contractors can prepare for AI and machine learning is to fundamentally establish a process to digitize their workflow and understand how they’re collecting information."

-Tauhira Ali, Senior Manager, Construction Technology, Milwaukee Tool

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AI and machine learning are being developed while companies are simultaneously creating their own processes, workflows, and best practices.

These tools help inform humans’ decisions. I’ve spent many years focusing on studies around human/computer interactions for groups like NASA and the Department of Defense. Humans are never going to be cut out of the equation.
 
Now that we have better sensory data and better inputs. AI and machine learning tools can be leveraged to help you make better decisions and free you from managing the meticulous pattern recognition on your own.

BK: How do you think we could solve the challenge of data?

TA:  It’s a fun problem to think about, right? One of the biggest things to consider with the data challenge is: why are you storing information and what value could you get out of it? What are you doing to keep data secure? If you think about how this data might be used, this could be predictive.

The construction industry is perhaps not as experienced with data security or ensuring there’s a good strategy in place for keeping your data private. To combat this, we have the chance to learn from other industries that have been addressing these challenges for years.
 
There are opportunities to learn from some of the other industries out there, like healthcare or finance. Construction doesn’t necessarily need to mimic their solutions, but the industry should begin to understand industry best practices because data management is a field by itself.

I don’t necessarily recommend creating an entire data arm for every construction firm, especially the ones that are less than 20 people, but this is where you can start to lean on the experts.

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"That’s where partnerships with third party experts like Milwaukee Tool and Oracle are incredibly powerful. Oracle has deep expertise in equipment design, tool or data management, data organization, data security and data access."

- Tauhira Ali, Senior Manager, Construction Technology, Milwaukee Tool

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Accessing the information that you’re researching or collecting is just as important as being able to use a drill or a saw on the jobsite. As the industry grows leaner and more efficient, these are the opportunities to evolve and galvanize your position in the future of construction.

Read our eBook: "Innovation in Construction: Perspectives from AEC Innovation Leaders"

Explore how you can deliver project success with Oracle Construction and Engineering.

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