Machine learning and artificial intelligence are the buzz words of the moment, especially in the financial, telecom and tech world. This should come as no surprise as these industries are well known for their risk-taking attitude towards new technologies, climbing on board quickly in order to make their internal processes more efficient and gain advantages over their competitors.

But what is machine learning? Well, it is basically a trend towards machines learning to think for themselves. As a BIM Company, we know that there is a vast amount of data available out there which can be collected and analysed by machines, and this allows them to learn and predict behaviours and patterns. This is where it comes into play for the construction industry – as machine learning can help us predict patterns of behaviour within buildings and so allow architects to make more informed decisions about design before the building even enters the construction phase.

Taking it back to basics, the easiest way to think about machine learning is to compare it to a human. When a baby is born, they don’t know how to hear, talk or walk and so on.  We learn these tasks by repeating them over and over. As we repeat these tasks our brains process them and store them as a common function. When a machine is learning, it is looking at patterns within the data it is handling and using these patterns to make a more informed decision about what might happen next.

So, let’s say we input a thousand images of a slug into a computer programme, and tell it each time that the picture is of a slug then it will learn to recognise other pictures of slugs or items that look like slugs. To apply this theory to construction, if a programme sees thousands of architects selecting the same type of door handle to use on the same external door type, on the same building type in the same country, then it can now use this knowledge to suggest the door handle to other architects using the same software. BIM is leading the way for construction companies to start using software that is in the cloud, and this helps greatly with machine learning as it allows the machine to start connecting the data from many different sources.

Alongside the adoption of AI and machine learning, comes the increase in the use of IoT devices and sensors allowing us to measure energy consumption, lighting and heat. In the beginning, these systems were closed systems that weren’t able to talk to each other, but now many new products are being brought to market which can share data. What this means is that once this sort of data is collected and stored within a machine, it can then be layered over the top of an existing algorithm. The machine can then help us to predict the behaviours of future occupants of the building, and so allow us to make maintenance and building operations more efficient, and can also help us to make more informed choices at the design stage.

Although the construction industry is still in the early stages of utilising machine learning, BIM is helping to drive the adoption as it is forcing the use of digital processes and technologies. Companies such as Autodesk who provide Building Information Management software are already starting to invest in the technology, meaning that we can now see a future where machines will be able to help us make construction sites a safer place – and that can only be a good thing.

For more information about how a BIM company can help with your construction needs, please give our friendly team a call on 0161 427 0348 or send us an email to office@thecadroom