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The infrastructure bill in the United States is a huge opportunity. Let’s not waste it – TechCrunch


The $ 1,000 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill and President Joe Biden’s broader domestic policy agenda have sparked national interest due to bipartisan struggles and brief periods of unity for the United States.

Now, in the adopted legislation, $ 100 million is reserved over five years to “accelerate the deployment of digital construction technologies such as 3D modeling software and digital project management platforms”, thanks to the Coalition for Smarter Infrastructure Investments.

“President Biden believes that we must produce, here at home, the technologies and goods that meet the challenges of today and seize the opportunities of tomorrow,” the White House said in a backgrounder.

Yet as the broad package – which aims to stimulate the economy, cut carbon emissions and reduce economic inequalities – takes off, we in the private sector know that infrastructure at this level will need to be improved. solid changes that incorporate emerging technologies during design and construction, or much of construction will only hamper our great cities and centers.

Recent technological advancements really have the capacity to help an industry that has been battered by the pandemic and then global supply chain shortages. New York City alone has lost an estimated $ 9.8 billion in construction activity and 74,000 jobs due to the pandemic.

At the time of writing, over 73 freighters were unable to dock at major ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach due to a safeguard in unloading cargo. Rising prices for some materials and these delays are causing shortages, causing further tensions in supply chain trade relationships, making it more important than ever to complete large infrastructure projects on time.

The infrastructure bill would add $ 488 billion to U.S. GDP by 2027, with just the additional $ 153.7 billion planned for new investments in highways, bridges and transit, according to the ARTBA.

The complete bipartisan bill contains $ 550 billion in new spending; the $ 1.2 trillion figure comes from the inclusion of additional funds normally allocated each year for highways and other infrastructure projects. The new expenses include:

  • $ 110 billion for roads and bridges.
  • $ 66 billion for the railways.
  • $ 65 billion for the electricity grid.
  • $ 65 billion for broadband.
  • $ 55 billion for hydraulic infrastructure.
  • $ 47 billion for cybersecurity and climate change.
  • $ 39 billion for public transit.
  • $ 25 billion for airports.
  • $ 21 billion for the environment.
  • $ 17 billion for ports.
  • $ 11 billion for security.

What the Smarter Infrastructure Coalition and I know about our respective fields is that in this list there are over $ 500 billion that are about to be spent on infrastructure projects that use still obsolete methods, hurting return on investment and potentially the next generation of taxpayers. who will pay this bill.

With this kind of expense and need for accountability, it’s time to harness the power of algorithms and bring in AI for greater accountability. Machine learning tools can examine huge volumes of data for patterns. Construction companies of various sizes will be looking for solutions to manage apps, mobile devices and a range of other collaborative tools to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget.

We’ve all seen the success that companies like Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb have built on their ability to analyze large amounts of data. It may have taken a practical industry like ours longer to adjust, but now AI is making massive savings in construction by reducing the cost of equipment and labor. while helping to detect lags and recommend improvements with precision and scale previously not possible.

Pipe insulation may seem like a small thing, but there are a million “little things” that make up these projects that need technology to save taxpayer dollars.

In an example from my work with Doxel, a multi-billion dollar project from a global oil and gas company saved millions and avoided a three week delay because computer vision was able to immediately prioritize corrective actions when the piping systems were not properly installed.

Essentially, when digital surveying and our algorithms detected the fact that the insulation had not been installed according to plan, we saved this company money by opening the factory on time, thus avoiding sending back at home thousands of workers of this factory.

Even before the announcement of the infrastructure bill, there was a global increase in appetite for large infrastructure projects, as they create jobs and have a continuing positive economic impact for the regions where they are put. implemented. However, the boots on the ground have waned and are reaching new lows – perhaps because of work-related stigma, or perhaps because of professional fashions and new models of adult education learning.

What is quite clear is that technological monitoring and daily project reports are simply imperative for the infrastructure bill to be successful in boosting our GDP. Construction is a powerful player on the global stage, accounting for 13% of global GDP, but construction has experienced low productivity growth (1% per year), largely due to fragmented solutions and lack of adoption. of technology, according to McKinsey.

According to the infrastructure productivity guidelines in the same report, streamlining delivery (for example, investing heavily in the early stages of project planning and design) can save up to $ 400 billion per year and accelerate deadlines for major construction projects.

We currently have the ability to accurately track job progress using cameras and lidar devices, in addition to the ability to connect progress to budget and schedule to predict delays and cost overruns when the site conditions deviate from the plan. We can increase worker attendance by freeing up time previously spent on site visits, in addition to providing weekly critical progress reports with contextualized information – and much more.

After 2022, a construction boom in the United States is inevitable and will play an important role in reviving a struggling global economy. Let us not be afraid to use technology, when properly managed and deployed, to enable the limited workers we will have at our disposal to be more productive and avoid the costly pitfalls of schedule delays that so many major infrastructure projects in the United States were faced. in the past.

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