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AI and machine learning growing trends on construction jobsites: OGCA panel

Angela Gismondi
AI and machine learning growing trends on construction jobsites: OGCA panel
SCREENSHOT — Kris Lengieza, senior director of business development, marketplace, Procore Technologies (top right); Milad Khalili, project manager, Cambria Design Build Ltd. (bottom left); and Niran Shrestha, co-founder and CEO of Kwant.ai (bottom right), were the speakers at a session on artificial intelligence at the recent Ontario General Contractors Association Educate Me! Virtual Symposium. The panel was moderated by Lilly Albertz, head of marketing, Canada and LATAM, Procore Technologies (top left). Panellists spoke about how construction companies have been increasingly using AI to make construction more efficient.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being widely adopted across North America and it’s only a matter of time before that adoption occurs on construction jobsites as well.

This was one message relayed by Kris Lengieza, senior director of business development, marketplace with Procore Technologies, during a panel on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Construction, which was part of the Educate Me! virtual symposium hosted by the Ontario General Contractors Association.

“It’s very much like when I started seeing iPhones and iPads show up on the jobsites. It’s because people were using them in their personal lives,” he noted. “People are using AI and ML in their personal lives whether they know it or not. They are getting more comfortable with it and therefore we’re going to see more of that heading to our industry.”

Panellists spoke about examples of AI and ML in everyday life such as using ride sharing apps or even writing an email.

“All of us have probably written an email in Gmail and it’s basically helping you complete your sentences a little bit faster. That is based on artificial intelligence and one of the key forms of it, natural language processing,” Lengieza said. “Natural language processing and computer vision, those are forms of artificial intelligence that are here. You are seeing them in the underlying technology that you are using today.”

While predictive analytics is something people are talking about now, he expects there will be more execution in the next few years.

“If I’m betting on one thing in the AI, ML space it’s that we’re going to see more predictive over the next several years,” Lengieza noted.

“The reason is we’re getting to a point now where we’ve got years of data in structured formats that we didn’t have five years ago.

“We didn’t have that as an industry because we were so under digitized. As the shift happened over the last several years it gave us the opportunity to collect more data in a meaningful and usable way. So you’re going to see companies use that information to improve products to provide predictions.”

Lengieza said no matter how many solutions are in a company’s tech stack, one of the biggest benefits is being able to connect them and making sure they work together, not against each other.

One tool, for example, takes your financial projections, your change orders, your budgets and they look at that and they provide their own projection of where the cost of the project is actually going to land. It allows companies to compare how your project manager is forecasting the job versus the AI.

“Early on, a project manager was projecting that a job was going to come in well under budget,” he said. “The AI was seeing things that were indicators: change orders, RFIs, submittals, other things that were saying ‘hey, there is risk here, we’re going to predict that risk.’ Knowing about that risk and those cost changes earlier in the process is super valuable because then you can try and correct it.”

Niran Shrestha, co-founder and CEO of Kwant.ai, specializing in construction and industrial technology, said one of the things his firm focuses on is how much manpower is needed on a project and explained how AI can help with that.

“We still don’t know how much manpower is required if you want to build an airport, a railroad or commercial building,” he pointed out. “When you are making a cost and schedule for a new project what do you do? You look at your older schedule and you try to compare the schedule and see if you can use that as a reference for the new project, for estimation, for manpower and for cost. Now imagine with AI you are not comparing one or two schedules…but you’re looking at thousands and thousands of data that you’ve collected historically for years and years.”

As a contractor, Milad Khalili, project manager with Cambria Design Build Ltd., said being able to access historic data quickly and easily will help find solutions for future projects.

“With the help of machine learning, AI and automation you will have it so much faster and a few clicks away,” he noted. “It’s going to help us eliminate the repetitive tasks that project managers, project co-ordinators, different people, trades are doing at construction sites. Now you have more time, you have more tools to be more creative to find the solutions for those problems.

“By doing that you are saving a lot of time and money and on labour and materials.”

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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