Last edited 24 Jun 2021

Main author

Daniel Connal Partnership Surveyor Website

Artificial intelligence and surveying


[edit] Introduction

It is possible that, to the outside world, the surveying profession could appear a little dull. The old adage that ‘building surveyors look at bricks and quantity surveyors count them’ doesn’t sound particularly exciting.

Of course, there has always been much more to surveying than that. The industry changes and adapts to outside influences all the time and has always made the most of innovations in technology to improve the expert services it offers – artificial intelligence is a case in point.

Frequently, technology developed with one application in mind is adapted to suit other purposes/industries and, as a result some of the ‘tools’ in the surveyor’s tool box have got a lot more interesting.

[edit] Drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, have taken the world by storm.

As Amazon’s latest delivery service, the spectacular light show at the Superbowl or, less acceptably, smuggling illegal goods into prison and buzzing passenger aircraft on their way into Heathrow, drones are becoming a feature of everyday life.

Just a few days training from an approved instructor and the award of a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority authorises the operator to take to the skies – virtually.

The advantages for the drone piloting surveyor are significant. No longer are high level roof inspections tricky, potentially dangerous or even downright impossible. A drone provides clear, high quality imagery and video footage without the surveyor leaving the ground. The benefits: greater accuracy of reporting, potential cost saving to clients through improved efficiency, improved health & safety and fun to use too.

[edit] Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects enabling them to send and receive data) is also having a significant impact on surveying work.

Spaces that were once impossible to reach without intrusive (and expensive) investigation are now revealed with ease. Thermographic / thermal imaging cameras create digital images using infrared radiation. These thermal imaging surveys can help to identify defects within flat roofs, under floors and internal services quickly and with minimal damage to the surrounding area.

A leak left undetected can wreak havoc in a building. Repairing the damage can be time consuming, costly and inconvenient. Leak sensors are a recent innovation and a very useful tool in planned preventative maintenance. Detecting leaks within a building as soon as they occur, allows immediate remedial action to be taken. Stopping a leak quickly prevents rot and mould developing and avoids potentially expensive damage to the structure of the building, its services, fixtures and fittings.

Leak detection systems are now available as wireless units. Some can be linked to smart home devices and smartphones to allow constant monitoring.

Taking the idea of constant monitoring one step further is global building giant Skanska. They have recently announced a ‘smart helmet’ trial on some of their sites. These augmented reality hard hats provide intelligent information about the world around them, with data and information overlaid on the wearer’s line of sight. Giving instant access on site to a wide range of information, including product & design, this new piece of kit aims to improve both the efficiency and safety of a construction site.

[edit] Collaboration software

The Latham Report, published in 1994, highlighted the importance of collaborative practice within the work place.

Collaboration software, Union Square, Share Point, Google Drive and 4projects, to name but a few, enables all those involved in a project to share data in one secure, easy to access location.

Remote working through cloud storage encourages true ‘martini-style’ any time, any place, anywhere access to documentation. Your workplace is then only limited by internet access – a god-send for those aiming to achieve the ultimate in flexible working.

And of course, there is BIM; the ultimate in collaboration tools. It describes the process of designing a building collaboratively using one coherent system of computer models. It aims to achieve enormous savings in cost and time, much greater accuracy in estimation, and the avoidance of error, alterations and rework due to information loss during the complete lifecycle of a building.

[edit] What does it mean for the industry?

Technological innovation is constant. That being said one should never simply ‘jump on the latest bandwagon’ for the sake of it.

Professionals should ensure they are always abreast of and understand advances in technology in their own and other sectors. Having identified a client’s needs, the advantages offered by technological innovation can be combined with professional expertise and personal service to provide quicker, more accurate and proactive advice to help them achieve their desired outcome. That way, as an industry, we will be able to prosper for many years to come.

--Daniel Connal Partnership 16:16, 18 Jul 2017 (BST)

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