Machine learning (ML) that people always confused with AI, has been portrayed in movies and other media so often that it’s gathered quite a mythology about it. From fears that it will take over the world, to curiosity about whether an AI can be sentient, it’s easy to get caught up in a fantasy land of imagination.
To understand how machine learning impacts construction industry, we must first get a good understanding of what machine learning actually is–not the science fiction, but the reality. In general, machine learning is a broad topic that came directly from minds of the early AI crowd, and the algorithmic approaches over the years included decision tree learning, inductive logic programming. clustering, reinforcement learning, and Bayesian networks among others. As we know, none achieved the ultimate goal of General AI, and even Narrow AI was mostly out of reach with early machine learning approaches. However, in regard to how it impacts construction, when we talk about machine learning, we primarily refer to two specific areas: AI and deep learning.
On a building site, the factor that determines success or failure is not the sheer number of issues a project faces, but the kinds of issues, and how they’re prioritized. Fixing a sloppy paint job is a must before the tenant moves in. But it’s a far lower priority than remedying improperly installed window flashing that might allow leaks.
“If I have two issues, and one says, ‘Repair the scrape in the water fountain,’ and the other one says, ‘The water may leak into the wall,’ they both say ‘water,’ but the machine learning is getting wise enough to be able to say, ‘Repairing a scrape isn’t a big deal. A leak is a big deal’”. “So it knows that, of those two issues, issue B is more important than issue A, and it helps bubble that up to the top, to where it gets more attention, earlier.” If it’s initially fooled by the presence of water in the former issue, and builders have to de-emphasize the scraped panel manually, the system will learn from this mistake and adjust its algorithm accordingly.