It’s been over nearly two months since businesses around the world shuttered their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the construction industry is still reeling. An online survey conducted on March 30 by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found that 27% of the polled construction firms had reported furloughing or laying off workers. By April 10, that number had grown to 40%.
In response, construction camera services provider OxBlue has turned its extensive network of cameras into an AI-supported tool to monitor construction activity during the outbreak. The resulting report, the OxBlue Activity Index, shows which states have been most affected by shutdowns. The company has also harnessed the very same technology to monitor social distancing practices on job sites.
AI and Data Shed New Light on Construction Activity
OxBlue created a map showing nationwide construction activity. It leverages data gathered from construction sites using the company’s cellular-connected cameras, which are active on thousands of construction sites in all 50 states and more than 100 metro areas.
The cameras captured more than 150,000 images of job sites, which were then run through an algorithm designed to identify what, if any, activity had been happening. The resulting data was then extracted and mapped out in an index, showing a color-coded U.S. map indicating what areas saw the biggest declines in activity.
“It can tell us what things we detect, such as changes in people or equipment, and how those changes occur over time,” OxBlue CEO Chandler McCormack told Construction Dive. “Based on that we can determine a relative change in activity.”
According to OxBlue’s data, the following states have so far seen the biggest declines:
- Pennsylvania (77% decline)
- Michigan (74% decline)
- Massachusetts (57% decline)
- Washington (45% decline)
- New York (43% decline)
- Ohio (25% decline)
Pandemic Spurs New AI Use Cases
These indexing capabilities were initially intended as a tool for OxBlue’s clients to better understand the flow of activity on their construction sites. Once the pandemic began, the company decided to pool its data-gathering capabilities at the national level, unleashing its proprietary AI software to collect and share its research.
It’s an example of a company employing an existing technological resource in a different way in response to a crisis, in this case, OxBlue’s nationwide network of cellular-connected job site cameras.
The company has even taken stretching its technology a step further, using its analytics capabilities to determine whether workers are following social distancing recommendations.
The company says this new, previously unannounced solution is intended to increase awareness about social distancing best practices on the jobsite.
“With a global pandemic, harnessing the power of technology to solve the construction industry’s immediate challenges is our top priority at the moment,” McCormack said in a company press release. “We want to make possible solutions that allow actionable insights and peace of mind.”
OxBlue Impact Report
In OxBlue’s most recent report, which looks at jobsite activity through April 17, it found that several things had changed since the initial snapshot.
- The number of states with a decline in activity between 5%-25% has increased from 7 states to 11.
- The number of states with a “minimal impact” of 5% or less has decreased from 37 to 33 states.
- The number of severely affected states remains at 6, with Colorado taking the place of Ohio at the bottom of the list.
OxBlue also notes that early spring typically brings an increase in construction activity in some parts of the country, but no increase has been seen so far this year, which the company says could be due to the pandemic.