Industry experts talk AI: Benjamin Dyer on the new age of Artificial Intelligence in construction

Written by LetsBuild

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Data explosion has already changed the way we design, collaborate, and build in the sector. Both construction software and hardware become smarter and contribute to the creation of a more automated building process.
This outburst of smart technologies has empowered the emergence of Artificial Intelligence in construction. With that thought in mind, we present to you the second part of our interview series Industry expert talk AI.

Our today’s guest is Benjamin Dyer, CEO and co-founder of Powered Now. Benjamin took some time off his busy schedule and shared with us some of his thoughts on the present and future of Artificial Intelligence in construction.

What is your favourite book?

I read a lot, so coming up with a favourite book is really hard. I’m currently working my way through the Expanse set of novels by James S. A. Corey, which is some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time. Failing that I’d have to default back to my childhood favourite The Hobbit, great book but I refuse to watch the movies.

And your favourite Business book?

I’m obsessive about making sure we deliver great customer service and one book that really stood out for me was Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh the founder of Zappos. It’s a great read. It’s both interesting, with clear actionable points, and entertaining which is pretty rare for a book about business.

What is your favourite film?

I’m a kid born in the late 70’s, there is only one movie. Star Wars, A New Hope.

Where and how do you work best?

I need constant pressure to deliver my best work. It’s probably not that good for me but I love deadlines. I like my big screen and expensive chair so the best place for me to work is the office. Unfortunately, most of the time it seems to be on an EasyJet flight back from our Hungarian office.

Should Construction care about AI?

Absolutely. Whenever I talk about AI to people in the trade most people start conjuring up images of some type of Terminator-type robot that’s going to put them out of a job. We spend a lot of time working with trades like electricians, gas engineers, plumbers and builders, the saying “no two jobs are the same”, gives a clue to the good news.
In household situations, even the most advanced robots are a million miles away from dealing with the complexity that the average tradesman encounters. Robots cannot climb up ladders, and algorithms can’t bend under stairs while solving a large variety of different problems. A broad range of manual and mental dexterity is required, exactly what these new AI-driven robots don’t have today.

Is the industry ready to fully leverage AI?

Not yet, AI needs data, it’s the fuel for it to learn. The industry today relies on too many pools of disparate and often siloed information. The big advances in AI have come when there have been large data sets that can be analysed and interpreted.
AI in construction
The AI leaders of today are the data owners. So, unsurprisingly the big advances have been from internet giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple. All of these companies have vast amounts of data and AI has been eagerly learning from this information. It’s learning from experience, a bit like humans, although only in narrow, specialist fields. While construction produces epic amounts of data, it’s too disjointed to fully leverage at the moment. However, I can see this changing and possibly rapidly.

Are there areas more susceptible to AI now? Low hanging fruits?

Construction and Trade companies are fundamentally also logistics companies. They move a lot of stuff from A to B, including equipment, people, and tools. These are obvious areas where AI can instantly make a difference. We deal with a lot of companies that waste a lot of time rushing between appointments, clients, and sites. Smart routing and logistics supplies are great first steps.

In 5-10 years what could AI do for AEC?

Architecture will be the biggest winner, at least in the short term. The huge data sets and complex building calculations, especially in commercial environments will really benefit.
Lastly, there’s room for some of the more mundane and more easily repeatable jobs like bricklaying to be automated with Ai looking after the more limited variations.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Wash your hands before dinner!

What’s next for you?

We’ve got some really exciting developments on the horizon including some major enhancements to our mobile apps. There is tremendous potential for technology to make life much more enjoyable for professions like electricians and plumbers. They all hate paperwork and we can make a big difference.
Benjamin was interviewed by Gari Nickson. Gari is an expert in the application of artificial intelligence in construction. He’s an entrepreneur, co-founder of GenieBelt, and adviser to Contractor Freedom. Follow Gari on Twitter – @garinickson