Japanese construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu will work with Nvidia to use artificial intelligence to make construction sites safer.
Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia announced the deal at its GTC Japan event, where CEO Jensen Huang said that Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs, which can be used for AI processing) will power visualization and analysis of construction sites for safety issues.
Nvidia’s Jetson AI platform, a credit card-sized device designed to drive robots and drones, will serve as the brains of heavy machinery.
“Artificial intelligence is sweeping across industries, and its next frontier is autonomous intelligent machines,” Huang said in a statement. “Future machines will perceive their surroundings and be continuously alert, helping operators work more efficiently and safely. The construction and mining industries will benefit greatly from these advances.”
Construction is the latest in a series of industries in which Nvidia has signed agreements with companies to use AI to change how they operate. Among these are partnerships with GE Healthcare and Nuance in the area of medical imaging; Fanuc in the field of robotics; and more than 225 car makers, startups and research houses — among them Audi, Tesla, Toyota, and Volvo — for autonomous driving.
Construction sites are generally considered one of the most dangerous workplaces because of heavy equipment, uneven terrain, and continuous activity. Last year, sites in Japan alone recorded some 300 deaths and more than 15,000 injuries, according to the Japan Construction Occupational Safety and Health Association.
And Japan’s construction industry suffers from the nation’s severe labor shortage due to an aging population. Of the 3.4 million skilled workers in the domestic industry (as of 2014), roughly 1.1 million, or one-third, are likely to leave in the next decade, according to the Japan Federation of Construction Contractors.
To help address these issues, Komatsu began in 2015 rolling out its “smart construction” initiative, connecting data related to onsite workers and objects to make work sites safer and more productive. The initiative has been introduced in more than 4,000 sites across the country, with plans to expand both domestically and internationally.
“By leveraging Nvidia’s experience in image processing, virtualization and AI, we can further transform construction areas into job sites of the future,” said Yuichi Iwamoto, senior executive officer and chief technology officer at Komatsu, in a statement.
Komatsu will use Nvidia to create 3D visualizations of construction sites, showing the real-time interaction of people, machinery, and objects. Costly onsite equipment can be closely monitored to ensure it is used with optimal efficiency.
The GPUs will communicate with drones and cameras in the construction sites, acting as an AI platform for analysis and visualization. SkyCatch will provide drones to gather and map 3D images for visualizing the terrain at the edge. Optim, an Internet of Things management software company, will provide an application to identify individuals and machinery collected from surveillance cameras. Both of these Komatsu partners are also members of Nvidia’s Inception program for AI startups.