From 120 to 2 hours: Real estate developer makes site inspection more efficient and accurate with AI
A partnership forged through IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform has given CapitaLand Development a digital way to evaluate its facilities, and for start-up H3 Zoom.AI the opportunity to scale
Start-up H3 Zoom.AI’s smart solution has helped CapitaLand Development reduce the time spent on inspection without compromising accuracy. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
For real estate giant CapitaLand Development (CLD), artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed a crucial process of its business – inspection of its properties before launch.
In the past, the company’s project managers, contractors and other specialists walked the ground in individual and joint inspections to examine the quality of materials, scrutinise the workmanship of finished portions and pinpoint areas that can be perfected. The teams also met regularly to share images captured during these site walks to align on problems and solutions.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, however, safety restrictions forced the joint inspection teams to split into smaller groups and stagger the site walks. This led to long and costly delays in defect identification and rectification. To solve this issue, CLD turned to the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Open Innovation Platform (OIP). The OIP is a virtual crowd-sourcing platform that connects businesses facing a challenge with relevant solutions providers.
With the help of OIP’s innovation consultants, CLD outlined its challenges and needs in an OIP innovation call in end-2020 and selected local start-up H3 Zoom.AI – a data-driven intelligence company that specialises in automated AI-enabled inspections for the built environment. It had created smart façade inspection systems using drones and AI software for government and private sector customers, which could also be used to digitalise CLD’s inspection processes.
Video footage recorded from 360-degree cameras mounted on the inspection officers’ safety hard hats can be streamed to an AI-powered software for faster identification of defects on the property. PHOTO: CAPITALAND
With CLD’s feedback, H3 Zoom.AI designed a system where 360-degree cameras mounted on the inspection officers’ safety hard hats record videos of site walks. These videos are then streamed to an AI-powered software, which automatically identifies areas for improvement, sends notifications to the relevant parties and generates reports for all stakeholders.
H3 Zoom.AI’s system reduced CLD’s man-hours for defect checks and reports. When CLD trialled the system at its Rochester Commons property in Singapore last year, it took just two hours and 21 minutes to scan and log all the imperfections and produce a report for the main contractors and subcontractors to work on – compared to more than 120 man-hours it would have taken for a comparable development.
Mr Adrian Ting, head of building technology solutions at CLD Singapore, adds that the H3 Zoom.AI system value-adds to CLD’s workflow. It features a centralised platform to store inspection records and track the progress of repairs. “We’re planning to implement it in our upcoming projects to improve productivity. We’re also working with H3 Zoom.AI to enhance the system by including other features, such as a monitor for construction progress.”
The team syncing the mounted camera to a dedicated mobile application so that footage can be reviewed and accessed easily. PHOTO: H3 ZOOM.AI
Building bridges for win-win partnerships
Before its partnership with H3 Zoom.AI, CLD had tapped the OIP in 2020 to co-develop a machine learning energy management algorithm with another local firm to boost its chiller plants’ performance. “We had a positive experience working with IMDA, so we decided to use the OIP again to address our other pain points such as defects management,” Mr Ting says.
“The OIP has proven to be simple yet robust, enabling us to reach a larger pool of potential solution providers while being hassle-free. IMDA also has a competent team that has guided us through the journey, giving us and our partners advice along the way to ensure that the deliverables meet our challenges,” he adds.
Companies participating in the OIP’s innovation calls can determine the prize money to be awarded to selected technology providers. There is no other cost to joining the OIP, which has a pool of over 12,000 solution providers. So far, the OIP’s innovation calls have featured over 300 problem statements from firms, which put up over $13 million in prize money and support in total.
Mr Shaun Koo, H3 Zoom.AI’s chief executive officer, adds that the OIP gives smaller firms like his, which was founded in 2016 and has 49 employees, the chance to learn about prospective customers’ needs, accelerate product development and compete with larger rivals on a more equal footing.
H3 Zoom.AI has also upgraded its smart site inspection solution through its collaboration with CLD, to better address the unique requirements of CLD’s projects. “The initial training data for the system to recognise defects came from the database that we had accumulated over time, but CLD gave us access to project sites that allowed us to refine and adapt our algorithms,” Mr Koo shares.
With CLD’s feedback, H3 Zoom.AI added new features, including one for the real estate firm’s staff and consultants to verify images of reworked areas from contractors.
“We were able to differentiate our offering within the built environment sector, giving us a leg-up in the global playing field,” Mr Koo says.
A shot in the arm for smaller businesses
With the new and better site inspection system, H3 Zoom.AI has scaled globally and landed Softbank Robotics, a subsidiary of the Japan-based multinational conglomerate Softbank Group, as a client and partner in Japan. The two firms have been piloting a system in Tokyo for built residential housing and will roll it out over the coming months.
“We have also offered the solution to facility management firms in Singapore that want to use it to inspect existing buildings, opening up new customer segments beyond the construction industry,” Mr Koo adds.
IMDA has also introduced H3 Zoom.AI to construction companies that could benefit from the system. “The OIP has given us the opportunity to accelerate our development and commercialisation efforts, and increased our credibility given the success of our work with CLD. From my perspective, our experience with the OIP has been nothing but positive,” he says.
Mr Ting is similarly positive about the OIP. “We will be interested to participate in the OIP again if there is a need to do an industry-wide search for a solution to address a unique problem. We recommend that other companies do so too, if they face problems that require innovative solutions,” he says.
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Source: The Straits Times