Through the years, there have been technology buzzwords in the construction industry – big data, natural language processing, cloud, disruption. Another hot topic is artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial intelligence (AI) in construction can be described as a technique of optimizing problem solving. It can do things that haven’t been done before – so, things that used to be impossible are now possible. The term AI was coined about 60 years ago, and there is a changing metric to describe it. Originally, it was considered to be a machine solving problems that were unsolvable by humans.
Machine technology has gone from using simple algorithms in solving problems to a point where they can recognize and process natural language, exercise vision, generate speech, and drive vehicles.
There has been pushback against AI from the industry, but those concerns should not be central when deciding to use AI. Although intelligence is part of the buzzword, until a machine reaches the point of philosophy or reasoning, it’s not really “intelligent.” Ultimately, machines still function using algorithms developed by people; they may be sophisticated, but they are still algorithms. In reality, simple details that make sense to humans can still trip up a machine.
All of the technology being adopted in the construction industry has made it easier for employees to do their jobs. Just as robots in automobile manufacturing did not eliminate the need for people, likewise in construction, people will still need to manage robotic work, service robotic machines, and input instructions to get the desired results from machines.
The promise of technology is that it allows people to be more creative and enjoy their jobs more. They can leverage more and create a bigger impact. They can be responsible for more production.
For instance, building information modeling (BIM) using Revit solves the busy work for an architect, but the creative work remains. Structural analysis software has not eliminated the need for structural analysts: it has enabled larger, more complicated structures. Now there can be analyses for energy, seismic concerns, lighting, and other aspects of a building. The tool needs a human to set up what needs to be computed. Then the machine does the computing and produces the results. This pattern is bound to continue for decades into the future.
Innovation is a matter of willpower coupled with the desire to try something new. Anyone can be innovative if they’re willing to take the risk and wait for the payoff.
Over the next ten years, we will see the digital representations of a job connect with the analog reality. The technology that’s moving into the sphere of construction is going to enable people to exert less effort on daily mundane work, while having a greater impact on responsibilities in ways we cannot yet comprehend. The tech on the horizon can leave us excited and hopeful for the future of the construction industry.