Researchers from Cranfield University are working with BAM Nuttall and Iotic, to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled safety board monitoring system for the UK construction industry. Funded by Innovate UK, the Learning Camera project aims to improve safety, while reducing the number of health and safety-related tasks carried out by construction staff, in order to improve productivity.

The project is using a combination of technology concepts including the Internet of Things, computer vision, Semantic Web, machine learning and cloud technologies, to develop self-learning technology capable of monitoring and analysing various scenarios on construction sites.

The UK construction industry is said to have poor productivity in comparison to other sectors – in part due to ever-changing project environments and large amounts of regulation when it comes to health, safety and environmental issues. While this highly-regulated approach is currently wholly necessary, it is hoped that the new technology will reduce the burden on staff – in terms of both tasks and resources – meaning more of their time can be spent on tasks directly impacting the build, therefore increasing productivity while maintaining the same level of safety standards. The Learning Camera project will focus on developing a safety board monitoring system, which automatically alerts staff if any safety equipment is used or missing.

Dr Yifan Zhao, Lecturer in Image and Signal Processing and Degradation Assessment at the Through-life Engineering Service Institute at Cranfield University, believes this is a great opportunity to apply artificial intelligence technologies to a traditional industry. Dr Zhao said: “Using the Learning Camera, construction sites will be better equipped to manage and deliver projects. It also helps to promote the need for the construction industry to attract talent with skills in software and hardware development, in order to tackle the much-publicised poor productivity of the industry.”

Colin Evison, Head of Innovation at BAM Nuttall, said: “This is a real opportunity to explore how we can make our construction projects smarter by the adoption and development of technology solutions that are not traditionally available in the construction industry. The use of tools such as the Learning Camera will enable our people to focus more of their efforts on the actual delivery of the projects, with the knowledge that it will notify them automatically if their intervention is required. In addition, by creating new additive business relationships with organisations such as Iotic Labs Limited and Cranfield University, we are able to have access to talent and resources in different sectors.”

Sophie Peachey, Head of Customer Success at Iotic, said: “The application of Digital Twin technology within the Learning Camera allows us to broker access to a potentially increasing number of data sources and controls to perfect the accuracy of the algorithms used in the solution. These algorithms must be able to interpret differences correctly and instigate appropriate actions to make the Learning Camera a solution that people trust. You can see how this could apply to different situations in which people have to balance the importance of knowing that something is there, has changed, or is working, against the cost of their time in checking. While this is not restricted to construction, we are very excited by the impact this could have on productivity and in providing construction staff with a safe working environment.”

Find out more about the Learning Camera project

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.