Construction, accepted by most states as an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, must accept the responsibility for keeping its practitioner safe and healthy. Several approaches to this include the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in various ways.
According to Microsoft, 85% of Americans already use AI. Smart assistants in our homes, song recommendations from music streaming services, and even spam filters on email are all powered by AI. At its most basic, AI is a powerful automation tool designed to augment what people can do. To take advantage of this technology, we need a good understanding of its capabilities.
An obvious need is to maintain monitoring of the workers and their activities to limit transmission of the coronavirus. OxBlue, Atlanta, Georgia, a professional construction camera service, is utilizing artificial intelligence to measure the effects of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on construction across the United States.
Unlike many macroeconomic indicators that tend to lag, AI is being used to determine the activity level based on near real-time field data, created by measuring job site activity and comparing it to previous milestones. The initial analysis covers all 50 states and more than 100 metropolitan areas and data will be updated regularly as the situation develops.
OxBlue uses anonymized data from over 150,000 unique images and thousands of unique construction projects. The first report covers construction activity for March 2020, during which many states implemented shelter-in-place orders. New reports will be published on the OxBlue website.
During March 2020, many states implemented stay-at-home regulations. However, OxBlue’s initial report shows that the national level of construction activity declined only slightly, by approximately 5%, based on a weighted average of the construction volume for each state. March construction activity in 37 states either declined by less than 5% or increased. In 7 states, the construction activity declined between 5% and 25%. Construction declined more dramatically between 25-77% in 6 states.
Pennsylvania, which issued a stay-at-home order on March 19th, requires the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses. The result was the most dramatic: a drop in construction activity of approximately 77%. Michigan experienced a 74% decline in construction activity after a stay-at-home order on March 23. Other states with traditionally high construction volumes experiencing significant declines include Massachusetts (57%), Washington (45%), New York (43%) and Ohio (25%).
Another technology, AI-powered drones, can help residential contractors gather information on their development in record time. Rather than walking miles, a drone can quickly fly over and take pictures and videos that spotlight problems. The technology can help commercial developers learn about work being done at upper levels of the project without even having to visit the site.
Indeed, AI can replace humans in doing monotonous, mundane tasks, freeing us to use skills that machines don’t have like creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving. AI will create new jobs, enhance a lot of the work currently done by making some jobs safer, easier or more productive.
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