Tel Aviv-based Buildots uses 360-degree wearable cameras and AI for “automated detection of schedule and design discrepancies.”
At October’s Digital Construction Week 2019 trade show in London, I spotted Israeli startup Buildots among the exhibitors. I didn’t have chance to learn more then, but the company presented at December’s COMIT community day (held in IFS‘s impressive new offices by the River Thames in Staines, west of London).
Founded in Tel Aviv and now with an office in London, Buildots was founded in early 2018 by Roy Danon (CEO), Yakir Sudry (CTO) and Aviv Leibovici (CPO) – who presented at the COMIT ‘wearables’ event. The three have backgrounds in computer science and electrical engineering, and all have worked for the Israeli government or its defence force. Buildots investors include Innogy and TLV Partners.
Automated detection of schedule and design discrepancies
Leibovici (right) described Buildots’ solution as “automated detection of schedule and design discrepancies.” It aims to help contractors more effectively manage the plan, execute, measure and optimise cycle – especially the measure and optimise steps. The toolset combines data collected by 360-degree cameras worn by employees with data from project schedules and uses artificial intelligence, AI, to compare captured visual data with what is scheduled in the project programme and what has been designed. It gives “precise control of the last 5%”, Leibovici said, and enables “continuous flow assurance” – which is vital in the high density residential projects where Buildots has hitherto been focused.
Buildots data and analysis from projects undertaken in Israel was shared (I understand the firm is also working with UK contractor Balfour Beatty in London). Leibovici said wearable devices enable seamless collection of highly detailed information (visual evidence). In one walk around a single floor of a residential development, data on 2500 elements was captured. Moreover, once the data had been collected, uploaded, processed and analysed, Buildots could also help to identify missing elements (missing power sockets, for example) or errors (eg: wall apertures that had been closed – on one project, 812 walls and 515 door openings were being created, and the toolset identified two doors had been omitted).
Snapshots from the visual evidence could then be used to notify contractors about defects or omissions, while also providing a visual as-built record of how and where services had been installed prior to floor, wall or ceiling finishes being applied. The Buildots Software-as-a-Service solution also provides dashboards showing percentage completion of work packages, work logs, and can be used to help schedule payments.
The quality of visual data is, of course dependent upon the quality of the 360-degree camera used. At the COMIT event, Liebovici responded to questions about the weight of the devices and battery packs, the frequency of surveys, and lighting levels. Accurate image capture is apparently easier in sunny Tel Aviv than cloudy London!
The Extranet Evolution view
Using wearable or mobile devices to capture visual site data is being trialled by several contractors, alongside more conventional capture using static laser-scanning and photogrammetry equipment and techniques. Perhaps the most notable competitors to Buildots in this space are the US-based OpenSpace and Holobuilder solutions.
OpenSpace hit the headlines in August 2019 after raising US$14m in Series A funding (read Forbes article), and has integrations with Procore (OpenSpace news) and Autodesk’s BIM 360 (ditto). The technology has also been deployed in the UK: St Albans-based Lindford Consulting offers OpenSpace project recording as one of its services, for example (Update [22 January 2020] – read this BIM+ interview with Lindford’s Edward Carolan).
Holobuilder launched its 360 Construction Documentation Solution in July 2017, for example, and has expanded in Europe and progressively extended the platform’s functionality, adding SiteAI (December 2018), a JobWalk Planner (April 2019), and – launched at Autodesk University in November 2019 – SpotWalk, the first robotic construction 360° capture solution. SpotWalk equips Boston Dynamic’s Spot robot with autonomous 360° image capturing technology, allowing customers to let Spot remotely walk around a project site and create a 360° digital record of their construction projects. US Holobuilder customer Hensel Phelps is already testing SpotWalk on its $1.2 Billion San Francisco Harvey Milk Terminal 1 Airport project.
In December 2018, COMIT also hosted a demonstration of a German-built Panono 360-degree camera (post), and 3D photography and scanning by firms such as Matterport have also featured. Away from 360-degree photography, smartphone or tablet apps for progress documentation – geo-located progressive assurance – are provided by Leeds, UK-based eviFile* (May 2017 post), which has been successfully winning work on civil engineering infrastructure and utilities projects. In July 2019, eviFile announced a project with Yorkshire’s Drax power station where its technology could potentially save the generator £1m a year (read Yorkshire Post report).
[* Disclosure: I am a non-executive advisor to eviFile.]