The Next Level of Construction: Intelligent Machines
Artificial intelligence provides hidden insights into data that humans cannot process or is time consuming. Activities that hamper construction can now use artificial intelligence to make improvements in productivity, safety, quality, and scheduling. Construction activity has always been a dangerous business where heavy machinery is involved on uneven terrain of constant activity and risk of human error where the threat of danger never fades away. There are many fatalities despite of focus on health and safety and technology. Artificial intelligence provides hidden insights into data that humans cannot process or will take too long. Activities that hamper construction can now use artificial intelligence to make improvements in productivity, safety, quality, and scheduling.
One of the world’s leading construction and mining equipment companies Komatsu are working together using NVIDIA’s graphics processing units essentially intelligent cameras to visualise and analyse entire construction sites creating 3D images of sites, revealing the real time movement of machinery, people and objects. Equipment onsite can also be monitored to make sure it is utilised with optimum efficiency. Technology called SkyCatch will allow drones to map and gather 3D representations for visualising the terrain at the edge. OPTiM (Iot management-software firm) will also offer an application to recognize machinery and workers collected from surveillance cameras. Elsewhere, construction firms are also taking advantage of new AI technology to help avoid potential accidents. Arup and Skanska are among the companies using a video and photo platform called smartvid.io. This technology implements AI to sort through large amounts of videos and images captured on construction sites to identity possible hazards.
Swedish firm Volvo Construction Equipment is also looking at new technologies to boost the workers safety on building sites where AI techniques can help inexperienced machine operators to carry out complex task which otherwise could not. It also builds AI algorithms that decipher and detect particular object using computer vision techniques. AI techniques can help inexperienced machine operators to carry out complex tasks, which they otherwise could not. Trimble’s Earthworks is an aftermarket, 3D, semi-automatic grade-control system that allows the machine to follow a programmed design. Operators can hold a trigger on the joystick while pulling in the stick and the system automatically controls the boom and bucket to leave the grade at the design target. In mines, shovels equipped with the Caterpillar Load Positioning System display an intuitive graphic in the cab that shows the shovel operator—in real time—where weight is centered in the truck as each bucket load is added. The system says Caterpillar, assists in proper, consistent loading, which allows the truck to function as designed and promotes driver safety, optimum payloads, extended tire life, and predictable maintenance.Caterpillar is expanding autonomous technology to other of its truck models, as well as to competitive models as a retrofit option.
Some Smart Machines
Machines can be smart, of course, in more mundane ways. Some hydraulic excavators, for example, have given up operator-selected working modes and simply use built-in logic to observe the operator’s use of the joystick controllers, then instantaneously use that information to adjust machine hydraulics for, say, boom-raise priority or swing priority. Some excavators are smart enough, also, to memorize the pressure/flow requirements for multiple attachments and to call up the correct specs when it recognizes that the tool is on the coupler. For hydrostatic dozers, intelligence comes from such systems as John Deere’s SmartGrade and Komatsu’s Intelligent Machine Control. These dozers are equipped with integrated 3D grade-control systems, and when working in an automatic mode are smart enough to constantly measure resistance on the blade and to adjust blade height to keep the machine moving efficiently without track slip. For most equipment users, machine intelligence comes closest to practical application on job sites through grade-control and telematics systems.
Today, grade-control systems are available for virtually all major pieces of construction equipment. Systems are available in the aftermarket and, increasingly, as factory-integrated systems for widely used machines, such as dozers, motor graders, and hydraulic excavators. Some manufacturers also offer “system-ready” packages from the factory to facilitate installation of aftermarket systems. As with technology in general these days, grade-control technology keeps advancing. Topcon and Trimble, for example, have new systems for dozers, 3D-MCMAX and Earthworks, respectively, which use devices called “inertial measurement units” that, compared with previous system designs, allow significantly faster machine operation with more precise control. The payoff for investing in grade-control technology can be significant, given that the systems can significantly reduce rework, staking, and grade checking.
In summary, grade-control systems can be 2D indicate, 2D automatic, 3D indicate, or 3D automatic—2D meaning that the location of the machine’s cutting edge is reported relative to a single reference—a laser or sonic tracer, for example. Or, in some instances, as with Volvo Construction Equipment’s Dig Assist excavator system, for example, the operator sets a reference point with a bucket tooth, then inputs the target depth and grade. Most equipment managers are aware by now that many of their machines have a factory-installed telematics system, which collects all manner of data from sensors placed throughout the machine and wirelessly transmits these facts—along with satellite-based location information—to the machine manufacturer’s telematics website.
Telematics systems also can be set up to monitor maintenance intervals (advising the dealer that service is due and what parts to bring), as well as to immediately notify the dealer (or the machine owner, or both) if a machine sends a fault code that requires immediate attention. Other benefits of these systems include, for example, the ability to monitor fuel burn, which could help identify an engine with a problem or an operator who needs added training. A few fleet managers and equipment dealers—early adopters of the technology, mostly—have not only learned the value of telematics for monitoring machine health and status, but also have learned to integrate telematics data into their business systems and to use this information across various disciplines. But such users are in the minority.
Intelligent Machine Control
Komatsu intelligent machines offer a fully integrated 3D GNSS system supported by Komatsu, making every pass count without climbing, cables, or daily connections required between the machine and blade. Adding a grade control system to the proven performance of a Komatsu machine significantly increases productivity during all stages of earthmoving operations. With intelligent Machine Control technology integrated into your smart construction solutions, materials only need to be moved once. The Komatsu PC490LCi excavator handles work that dozers used to do, freeing up contractors to use those (now idle) dozers for 31 extra hours of production each month, 372 more hours per year, 46.5 more 8-hour work days.
Benefits of intelligent Machine Control include: Use of machine control in both rough cut and finish grade.Complete grading operations faster. More efficient machine use. Greatly decrease the number of grade stakes. Lower machine operating costs. Better material yields. Improved fuel efficiency. Improved operator performance.
The adoption of technology in the construction job site it happening. Firms need to identify the areas of major need and what AI-powered use cases can have the most impact in the short term. Without a clear business case, ROI, and burning platform, E&C firms will be inefficient in the use of time and resources, which can create frustration, increase skepticism in the organisation, and cause firms to lose momentum. Today, the E&C industry is investing roughly 1 percent overall into technology—a significantly smaller proportion than other industries, such as financial services and manufacturing. Because the impact of AI is contingent on having the right data, E&C leaders cannot take advantage of AI without first undertaking sustained digitization efforts. This includes investing in the right tools and capabilities for data collection and processing, such as cloud infrastructure and advanced analytics.
When it comes to construction, AI systems not only have the ability to assist engineers through their work. For example, if engineers were working on a proposed new bridge, AI systems would be able to advise and present a case for how the bridge should be constructed. This is based on past projects over the last 50 years, as well as verifying pre-existing blueprints for the design and implementation stages of the project. By having this information to hand, engineers can make crucial decisions based on evidence that they may not have previously had at their disposal.
In the construction industry, it is likely that you will come across projects that will be tall builds – this is where autonomous comes in. Using sensors and GPS, the vehicle can calculate the safest route while also helping workers to stay outside of the vehicle when it’s operating on dangerous routes. Artificial intelligence has limitless potential and advantages that penetrates all industries, its convenience and usefulness are leaking through our daily lives. The launch of self-driving cars from the automotive industry means faster transportation and a significant reduction in accidents and emissions. For the construction industry, early adopters are using technology to increase construction efficiency, safety, and quality.
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