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This week we are turning the spotlight on the construction industry. It is well known that technological advancement and big data enable better decision making. However, construction and maintenance projects are still prone to human error, due to inadequate use of already available data. Thus, the high chance of accidents in this industry is a challenge.

Problem Statement: A growing population means governments and municipalities everywhere continuously need to invest in the construction of and maintenance of our housing and road infrastructure.  These projects are important, but often costly and highly time-consuming. Mistakes and errors, be it human or mechanical, can greatly increase both the cost and time involved. A common problem is the accidental damaging of pipes and cables. These supply necessities such as water, gas, electricity, sewage and telecommunications. These damages have an adverse effect on the construction project, as well as the consumer and supplier of these necessities. The specific problem here might not be what you think, as it is not that these pipes and cables are placed here, or that we don’t know where they are, because we do. The problem is that the data is viewed on 2D maps that simply aren’t accurate enough for work in the field.  Because these cables and pipes are hidden underground, we usually don’t know we are about to hit one until it has already happened. 

Scope for Innovation: The solution here, as with many issues in construction, is to enhance the tools and information available to the workers in the field. So the question becomes: how can we translate the data we have, in this case the locations of these underground pipes and cables, into something accurate, reliable and actionable? Luckily, there already exists a technology that is perfectly suitable for such a query, namely Augmented Reality. If we could translate the data we already possess into something easily visible for workers, this could eliminate a lot of guesswork and damages done to this underground infrastructure that supplies our basic necessities.

Our Solution of the Week was developed by the Swiss startup V-Labs, and does exactly this. They present a very practical solution to a common problem. Utilizing geo-referenced data and Augmented Reality technology, they are able to visualize underground pipes and cables with centimeter accuracy. By enhancing and augmenting the tools and information used by workers, we can make industries such as construction more efficient, productive and safe.