In Part I of this month's "Trailblazers" series, CEO at Rhumbix, Zach Scheel, shared his professional background, including his work with the U.S. Navy and Bechtel, before co-founding Rhumbix. Scheel shared his views on the state of innovation in the industry and its biggest looming challenges-- ranging from budgets to change management-- and how organizations can foster innovation in their own organizations.
In Part II, Scheel discusses why emerging technologies such as digital twins, IoT, and 5G will play a significant role in the industry. Scheel also reviews how AI and machine learning technologies will influence our sector in the short and long-term.
Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director and innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the discussion.
ZS: I'll put these into two buckets that are part of the same broader technology trend around data collection: Digital twins and the Internet of Things (IoT).
I really like the concept of digital twins. When you look at other industries, their databases are geospatial in nature and tied to models. Aerospace and manufacturing are good examples of this.
Increasingly, we're seeing projects that focus on these technologies and a digital representation of the physical world.
This representation is utilized from design and engineering, through pre-construction and construction operations, before it’s finally turned over to the facility owner who maintains the model for operations and maintenance throughout the useful lifetime of the facility.
There’s a ton of promise around these technologies. Today, the data that’s attached to those digital twins is primarily what we refer to as actively recorded data: I took this picture, I filled out this form, here's the spec sheet.
With IoT, we can put relatively low-cost sensors on as many things as we’d like—both on the job site as well as part of turnover packaging—to continue feeding those digital twins with a passively collected stream of data.
Supplementing active data collection with passive represents a huge shift in the industry. Most data on a job site is actively recorded, but over the next three to five years, most data will be collected passively.
This will include a combination of video and photo feeds from drones, to wearable sensors on workers, to equipment and materials. I’m very excited.
IoT and 5G combined with a model-based data set are trends that we'll see shape the industry in the next five-10 years. IoT is powered by the decreasing cost of sensors, as well as the emergence of a 5G infrastructure backbone, that handles an exponentially increasing amounts of data generation on job sites.
Construction is a data-rich industry, but to-date we haven’t done a good job of collecting that data because the cost of collection was too high.
ZS: We hear the words artificial intelligent (AI) and machine learning (ML) thrown out frequently.
However, AI and ML powered systems must be trained with massive datasets that we don’t yet have in a structured format. In the short term, the focus must be on establishing that training set of data.
For example, human drivers train the AI before autonomous vehicles can be fully autonomous. The applications for AI and ML in the short-term are relatively limited in the construction industry.
We haven't done that training and the datasets don’t yet exist. But there are some companies making great strides to bring these technologies to our sector.
For example, Smartvid.io has built an AI platform named “Vinny” that quickly reviews daily photos and videos to identify relative safety risks from a statistical sampling of data around PPE compliance and safety hazards.
The next things we’ll see automated are business process automations: improving the intelligence of the systems we already have in place. We’re already doing this at Rhumbix.
We might say, "Hey, it looks like you've got a duplicate time card,” depending on the hours that are entered. A payroll administrator can verify whether there were two shifts of work or whether the same time card was submitted twice.
The particularly interesting stuff around AI and machine learning will happen within the next five to 10 years. This includes drones scanning project sites daily to capture progress and takeoff quantities and flag any potential quality issues.
We’ll also see robotic assistants augmenting human workers for tasks like material handling, site housekeeping, and drywall finishing.
It’s an exciting time to be in the construction industry. We’re in the middle of arguably the largest technological shift the industry will ever experience.
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