Some of my earliest memories were on my father’s construction sites. Construction is in my blood and has been for my entire life – Ever since those early days on job sites, my passion for construction has been the driving force behind my education and career.
After working in the family business for a stint I continued my schooling in Civil Engineering. It was half-way through my master’s studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when I had a profound realization – the same principles my father once studied so many years prior were being repackaged and taught to me. This was a pivotal time in my development – forcing me to answer questions like: Shouldn’t the construction industry have made significant changes and innovations over the last 50 years? Shouldn’t technology have made job sites safer? Can I affect widespread change?
That day I decided to shift my curriculum focus towards artificial intelligence and started my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech.
After graduation, I started OnSiteIQ out of the Runway program at Cornell Tech in NYC. Here I met my co-founder John Mollis and the foundations of our firm began to take shape. As one of the least digitized industries, our goal was to augment the stakeholders by bringing computer vision and artificial intelligence technology to construction.
On job sites in the US, three people die every day. This data was startling, and upon further analysis, we noticed there is a strong correlation between the frequency of inspections and the rate of injuries and fatalities (the more you inspect the site, the lower the rate of injury and fatality). And interestingly the same trend is true for progress and quality. What happens if you run one of your projects without a project manager involved in the process?
But let’s look at safety, quality, and progress issues through a different lens… Aren’t they all inherently various types of risks involved in every single project? And the engineers are tasked to mitigate, eliminate or reduce the risk throughout the process? But here is where it gets interesting, with all the stakeholders involved in the process, there are still more than $21 billion a year construction insurance claims which include defect, delay, workers’ injury, etc.
It was this information that propelled us to serve the stakeholders at the top of the value chain who are taking a financial risk but don’t necessarily have enough visibility into those projects (i.e. owners, developers, insurance carriers, and lenders). As a go-to-market strategy, we started partnering up with owners and developers to help them bring transparency and accountability to the job site by documenting their sites on a weekly basis. We are providing them with an extra layer of protection not to only be aware of existing risks but to reduce/control them. And if the project gets out of control, there is this famous saying “unbiased data ends disputes” (credit goes to our Head of Operations, Kenn Stearns). If the goal is to finish the project on time and budget, all stakeholders can rely on that data to reach a resolution.
As the next step, we started serving insurance carriers by augmenting their risk engineers to better understand and control risk across their portfolio. Engineers cluster together in urban centers and it can be difficult and costly to send a good one to every job site. On the other hand, it is easy to find construction workers in every market across the US and onboard them to walk job sites with off the shelf 360-degree cameras, capturing the entire site weekly, and simply uploading the data to the OnSiteIQ video and photo construction documentation platform. Our computer vision engine then creates a walkthrough of the site and our artificial intelligence platform analyzes the data to identify the risk trends on the job site.
That being said, capturing the visual data is a solved problem; pretty much like extracting oil. It reminds of a time when every country blessed with crude oil resources was selling unprocessed oil… But as history has shown, the real value is in processing the raw materials and producing various products and end-uses. The same principle applies to construction visual documentation and data. The next generation of construction tech startups will grow only and only if they can build strong enough engines to process the data and extract value for various use cases.
At OnSiteIQ, we are creating various AI engines to analyze the visual data and produce reports and dashboards so that the stakeholders can gain actionable insight and thus manage the risk accordingly. In the past year, our team has captured and analyzed over 220,000,000 sq ft in 12 different markets in the US. Serving owners, developers, and insurance carriers on the largest and most impactful projects in the US. There is still a long way to go, but we’re off to a great start. Stay tuned…!