IBM and Fluor are collaborating on a brand-new AI project that will utilise the IBM Watson supercomputer to develop more efficient building plans. Fluor is, and its VP for Information Management, Leslie Lindgreen told the media that the new project comes to tackle the issue of site analysis for large projects, “These are multibillion-dollar project sites, that are like walking into a city. The sheer volume of data is tremendous.”

Fluor intends to integrate the EPC Project Health Diagnostics and the Market Dynamics/Spend Analytics systems to analyse complex projects. By initiating a constant analysis, risk forecast, and mitigation will reduce the number of issues before they happen.

IBM Global Business Services partner Sai Yadati explains “Think of it as a living and breathing system. This is truly one-of-a-kind for the marketplace.” What IBM and Fluor are doing is taking a very large but lonely step into an area that could transform the global $10 trillion per annum sector. However, IBM and Fluor are only one company among many that are seeking new ways to improve the supply chain that manages this wasteful industry.

A report made by McKinsey & Co. around 33% of all value is wasted in construction projects, and many construction projects are not managed using modern technology, as Intelligence officer for CB Insights, Michael Wholey explained to the media “Construction is one of the least digitised industries, so many startups are seizing the opportunity to build technology that would increase efficiency within this market.”

The Mckinsey report and construction

AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) is starting to attract a lot of attention since it is a black hole for technology. While there is a lot of technology being used in various aspects of construction, on the whole, this is a non-standardised industry, unlike the automotive industry. Architecture and the use of novel materials, all add to the overall confusion in the nomenclature, and there are literally millions of building codes combined around the globe.

According to the McKinsey report, last year around $18 billion was invested in the construction tech industry. This included explorative searches into the world of AI. They do not expect that AI will provide immediate results, but over the next 5-10 years, it is expected to deliver exponential cost reduction in material supply, project management, and supply chain optimisation.

According to the report, “few E&C firms or owners currently have the capabilities—including the personnel, processes, and tools—to implement them.” Add to this the fact that out of 12 industries reviewed, 10 will spend more on AI development than on constriction projects. This is a clear sign that there is a lot to be done in this sector.

Investments

JLL, a global real estate company, Managing Director, Carlos Serra, stated that he expects to see the rise in AI involvement over the next decade, but does not expect it to be exponential. Rather, the fragmented nature of the business will only impede in the overall advancement in this area. Having stated this, JLL has its own AI platform that interfaces with small robots that check the progress of a site against the digital model.

Oracle is investing heavily in the construction industry, it recently purchased Aconex for $1.2 billion in February, and Trimble bought Viewpoint for $1.2 billion in April.

AECOM, an LA-based multinational engineering firm, presented Capture, a new web and mobile platform that analyses construction sites continuously and builds accurate 3D models at any point along a project’s lifecycle.

Another interesting startup is indus.ai, just raised $3.7million for seed) a construction (Iaas) intelligence-as-a-service solution. They are using neural nets contacted to computer vision, to analsze millions of construction site photos. The data is then used to train the AI to identify problems.

The bottom line is that AI is entering the construction world, and will speed up and change how projects are developed, designed and managed.