New technologies can crunch data to change industry practices, reduce project risk: AON

Ontario Construction News staff writer

New technologies have the potential to radically change construction industry practices and reduce project risk, say representatives of an insurance broker which has studied the powerful resources that are increasingly becoming available to contractors.

AON insurance brokerage representatives outlined how building information modelling (BIM) and jobsite sensors (Internet of Things) are combining with dozens of new software tools to process, interpret and analyze massive amounts of data.

The result: In some cases, contractors can see ahead to predict and thus avoid potentially serious problems, reducing injury risk, project delays, and insurance claims.

Speaking at a webinar last Wednesday co-ordinated by the Ontario General Contractors’  Association (OGCA), the insurance representatives indicated the science is new and early stage – but ultimately proper implementation of the new technologies may either result in insurance premium/claims savings or might be mandated as a condition of coverage.

Chris Greene, assistant vice-president, National Practice Group – Data and Analytics, outlined how the company has developed its AON Technology Corner – where it reviews more than 100 software providers, categorized by different jobsite or project challenges they address.

“We’re starting to really do a deep dive into the claims and the root cause of losses.” Greene said. “It’s kind of like digging for gold.”

Sean Hoare, AON’s manager and senior vice-president – Construction Services Group in Toronto, said the insurance specialists have discovered four insights.

  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices are playing a key role in acting like the nerves of the human body – “collecting the data and then bringing it together with machine learning and artificial intelligence” to move towards predictive job sites.iot backbone
  • Many technology companies are developing “single point” solutions – say detecting water where it shouldn’t be on a site – but “it’s a combination of solutions that come together” to really solve bigger problems.
  • At the higher level, new tools are allowing contractors to take the IoT devices and “putting on a backbone, so that you can ultimately bring all these different single point solutions into a bundle framework – and you reduce the overall risk on the project side.”
  • These elements come together to gather data from the past and present, and allow interpretation of “data of the future,” Greene said. When contractors and insurers have the “ability to actually see data around what’s going wrong and could be going wrong in the future,” the insurance sector will be transformed.

In practice, some contractors are deploying “digital twin” technology – where they compare the BIM model to actual jobsite conditions with the various sensors, and notice if there are discrepancies or potential future problems.

“If you think about the digital twin, it is kind of like the skin of the ‘as built’ in the IoT, and machine learning is like the nerves,” he said.

“So you can actually see the job site and collect data around environmental conditions, water issues, concrete curing, and vibration. The live data gives you a four-dimensional view of the job site.     “One of the most exciting aspects is how all the technologies are converging into a kind of single framework for projects. That’s obviously going to be a massive opportunity for the construction industry.”

Greene said humans know how to manage risk “with our own senses.”

“We know when something’s hot and we know when something’s dangerous”, so an asset should be able to operate the same way with technologies, and it will know when something’s going to go wrong.

Audience members asked how they can get started and what would be the likely impact on their costs.

The insurance representatives suggested that first priorities should probably relate to “pain points” — problems that have caused costly insurance claims – and contractors should look through their experience and claims history to see where they have experienced the greatest problems.

aon intro shot

Then they could start implementing some of the software packages described on the AON site, and build out from there.

The impact on insurance rates and premiums is still evolving; but the representatives indicated that contractors who get started now will have an edge going forward. Smaller contractors can certainly engage with the process because, in many cases, costs will start out low for smaller jobs and rise in portion to the job size – a smaller project will simply need fewer sensors and measuring devices.

Here are some resources to provide additional information.

AON’s Technology Corner

The OGCA’s Innovation Page


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