Sankar S. Villupuram, Digital Services Leader in East Asia, Arup
Slow and steady wins the race – we have listened to this moral story in our childhood, but the story did not end there. To make it crisp, rabbit rectified his error in the second race, ran without lazing to win. Tortoise reflected on it and realized that he was not racing to his strength, set up a race track with land and water, in which rabbit, though ran fast on the land, got stuck on the river bank. Tortoise went slower in land but crossed the river to win the race.
In today’s artificial intelligence (AI) world, the race of rabbit and tortoise is still applicable – AI the rabbit and construction the tortoise.
Rabbits Chasing Carrots
Technology cycle iterations are becoming shorter and swifter, the latest silver lining being AI. Sensors have become cheaper, communication costs are dropping constantly, advancement in storage and computer technology has quantum frogged in the last five years. Every industry leader would like to be in the space of predictive and prescriptive “dCom” – data commerce (carrots)
Tortoise in the Dreamland
Industry research reports quote that construction (tortoise) industry labor-productivity growth averaged 1 percent a year over the last two decades, as compared with world economy growth of 2.8 percent and 3.6 percent in manufacturing. It maybe heartwarming to know that construction productivity is performing better than farming. Tortoise believes its shell is the defense against any threat (disruption).
Restrictions and regulations in construction industry make it a protected one, making transformation much slower, where transparency and efficiency are considered as luxury in this protected dreamland. Higher entry barriers – qualification criteria and capex give tortoise a hallucination of lazy rabbit dosing under the tree. Little does tortoise realize that times have changed drastically.
Respond to Tweets, Not 5-year Plans
Real estate clients and asset managers around the world show an urge to drive their business on current trends and extend that to predict the near future, rather than historic patterns simply because the buyers’ requirements are determined by STEEP (social, technology, economy, environment and politics). These are changed by instant tweets rather than a 5 or 10-year plan proposed by the government. Clients need to feel the pulse of their end-users or assets in real-time.
Evolution of Edge AI
The need for predictive and prescriptive intelligence fires up the demand for petabytes of processed information in close to real time. Cities, transport, airports and mission critical infrastructure consist of thousands of critical components.
In today’s artificial intelligence (AI) driven world, the race of rabbit and tortoise is still applicable – AI the rabbit and construction the tortoise
We need more intelligence at every layer to cater for 24/7 intelligent data collection. Consequently, the development of “Edge AI”, computing boxes small in size yet powerful in computing that can host algorithms to filter the raw data to make it more meaningful information prior to be sent to cloud infrastructure for further machine learning and visualization.
AI – Friend or Foe?
Can AI really eliminate millions of jobs, wiping away conventional industries?
Sweet heart of venture capitalists as well as technology companies –startups to billion money giants, we are making progress in the sense of collecting and analyzing the data, but I am certain that our quest for the realization of AI has just started.
The biggest question in most of the board rooms today is what can we do with the data? Can I make millions of dollars more or save costs in the bottom line from these AI analytics?
Is AI a pure commercial or technical equation? Is there a cultural transformation element to the organization operation, as the focus gets shifted in the way priorities are made through the treacherous path of cleansing the raw stones to get the shine (insights) out of it, for it to provide any business value?
Enabling the Tortoise with Turbo Engine
At Arup, the mission has been clearly laid out – to be the digital leader in the built environment, firing up several initiatives that have to do with machine teaching, critical data modeling, data driven design and commercial business modeling. Initiatives are taken to enhance the asset quality and predictability in diverse core domains, from smart buildings, airports, cities, and energy to transport. Most of these cutting-edge initiatives do not just depend on the power of cloud computing; the secret ingredient being our domain expertise viz. structural, civil, MEP, digital and other multidiscipline experts who process the data from top-down and bottom-up to ensure whether it makes sense from the asset quality and business perspective.
Improving the commercial value is a common theme; it is the end of the means. We aspire to apply intelligence, built around forecasting / predicting by creating digital models that can anticipate the asset performance with variable environmental conditions and changing demography. AI in Arup’s world is the ability to keep enhancing these models through assisted teaching by our engineering expertise, pursuing the continuous mission of “shaping a better world” – may it be sustainable built environment that improves energy efficiency over longer timeframes, needing less maintenance or replacement or a sustainable city adhering to UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, this would not happen with Arup only.
Innovation is an Ecosystem Sport
Transforming the construction industry to perform better in terms of productivity, transparency, less consumption of resources, higher safety and sustainability would not be possible if it is just supported by a few commercial companies. This needs a collective genius, from regulators who need to transform quickly their outdated prescriptions, clients who need to make the bigger decision of doing the right thing for leaving a better world behind for our future, contractors who build the infrastructure that would leave a legacy behind, and finally engineers who make all the above practically possible!
AI the rabbit is the key to power up construction the tortoise with a turbo engine! We, at Arup, are working on “Total Design” towards that.
The moral of the story is obvious – rabbit and tortoise decided to come together, rabbit carrying tortoise on the land and tortoise carrying rabbit in the river to have a collective win.
At Arup, our collectively shared vision of shaping a better world brings the diverse experts to come together to energize the brain in creating AI for good.