Fire risk and project delays can be detected if construction sites use internet of things (IoT) technology to monitor projects, Microsoft said at Gitex 2018, currently under way in Dubai. A machine learning artificial intelligence (AI) system that can analyse data collected from sensors on a construction site can deliver major benefits to the building sector in the Middle East.

Construction must adopt smart city technology to capture the benefits of AI, machine learning, predictive modelling, and advanced data analysis, Necip Ozyucel, cloud and enterprise group lead at Microsoft Gulf, told Construction Week.

“There are many new cases where technology can help construction companies because it touches on different change agents in the fourth industrial revolution, such as IoT and AI,” he said.

“The main technology for construction is IoT. By using sensors, we can capture everything in the construction environment, which is [traditionally] very chaotic.”

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It would be possible to detect onsite problems if construction companies set up IoT-enabled sensors to monitor projects, Ozyucel claimed.

He added: “Based on this data, AI can kick in to create insights for a construction company, providing information on project completion times based on historical information. If we are able to feed a machine learning AI with enough data then it will become very possible to do this. 

“If you think about the safety perspective too, which is top of the mind for the construction sector, objective cognition – which is part of AI – is a key technology. If you train the system to detect anomalies in the construction environment, then it can become very easy to detect problems, and create alarms with objective cognition.

“By using cameras, we can detect any object on the construction site. Fire or smoke, for example, would be very easy to detect. If you approach this from the safety perspective, IoT is very interesting for construction companies.”

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As well as detecting fire safety risks and monitoring the progress of a project, Ozyucel said IoT can also help construction companies manage costs in a more streamlined way, helping to free up cash for other projects or investment in innovation research.

Ozyucel declined to name construction companies in the UAE that are working with Microsoft to adopt IoT and AI, but did reveal that Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai Mall were among the real estate companies it is working with.