The following is the third in a series of posts providing insights into how trends on display at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will drive innovation in the built environment.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a buzzword that gets bandied about in all sorts of platforms these days. At its simplest, AI is a series of algorithms that allows a machine to mine incredibly large amounts of data, recognize patterns, assess and return relevant results—and in many cases, act on those results. Advances in quantum computing, deep learning, evolving human-to-machine interfaces, deep neural networks, cloud computing and many other technologies are making what was once a dream quickly turn into reality.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) featured thousands of variations on how companies are currently employing AI. Think about robots that fold laundry, drones controlled by hand gestures and assistants that respond to your voice and complete tasks—not to mention the cameras that detect people and record what each person looks at, how long they are present, who they are with and demographics. The list of current technologies using some form of AI goes on and on.
It’s clear the ability to apply AI in the business world is real and becoming increasingly accessible. If you have data, then AI can help you slice and dice it to create more than you could ever dream of doing on your own. It’s taking extreme datasets and creating simple and useful outputs.
When we think about AI for McKinstry and the clients we serve, several application opportunities rise to the top.
Elevating the Maintenance Experience
AI can better enable the operation and maintenance of facilities. Incorporating construction documents, 3-D models, equipment manuals, and other pertinent data into an AI system will help clients transition to sustainably operating their new facilities. We envision a time in the not-too-distant future where facilities staff are able to easily find information for every building and system with simple text searches on any connected device or, better yet, through a vocal interface while they are in the field.
AI also has the potential to help predict equipment failures in advance based on historical and equipment sensor data. Imagine never needing to make a maintenance request and reducing overall facility maintenance costs because the predictive models associated with your building eliminate the need for emergency services and help your facilities staff plan effectively to keep your buildings running at peak performance.
Providing Actionable Insights into Building Performance and Usage
AI is creating a way to aggregate system, performance and usage data to provide greater insights, design even better systems, and ultimately reduce the amount of waste in the built environment. It won’t be long before we’re able to link performance data directly to building user behavior. Smart buildings, using AI and ubiquitous user interfaces, will be able to gently guide building occupants to more sustainable actions or simply respond in real-time and adjust the environment unobtrusively to achieve better performance.
There are companies right now working on AI-enabled devices and sensors that will help us more effectively monitor the use of our spaces. We’ll understand how employees and patrons are using conference rooms, common areas, restrooms, offices, cubicles, teaming areas, cafeterias, patient rooms, hallways, retail space, storage space and more. With the ever-increasing cost of square footage, these technologies will enable the reconfiguration of spaces to better serve the people using them while likely decreasing total space requirements. We see a future where all of our clients will be using these devices to better manage their real estate portfolios.
Delivering More Value
The ability of sophisticated AI to parse and return data accurately and quickly can be used to improve overall project delivery. Construction teams could use AI to mine historical project information to better estimate current projects, more precisely plan work, reduce safety risks, plan procurement more accurately, or develop better means and methods.
Generative design is a burgeoning field that has exciting potential to greatly impact the efficiency and efficacy of design. Using AI to help inform our designs will allow us to find “fill-in-the-blank” design iterations in very short order. If we are trying to find layouts that use the least amount of material, require the least amount of time to install, take up the least amount of overall height, afford the most amount of architectural flexibility or any other criteria, these iterations will soon be at our fingertips while leveraging all of our design and manufacturing standards.
Another avenue ripe for exploration is workforce training. Theoretically, a catalog of best practices, how-tos, templates, forms, company history, training programs, and thousands of other documents could be deployed to better train employees and facilitate projects.
The ever-evolving field of AI is opening up a world of possibilities that could completely transform many facets of our industry. This transformational technology will require a concerted effort by many players to realize its immense potential. Understanding what others are doing, sharing best practices, and working together to reduce waste, increase efficiency and deliver better outcomes for clients is the ultimate path forward.
Collette Duck is market strategy manager for McKinstry’s Pacific Northwest Construction teams.