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One of the key challenges that Komatsu and NVIDIA face is monitoring real-time data of workers and heavy machinery on the job site. (image: Komatsu)

Komatsu building AI into construction sites

Construction sites remain one of the more dangerous workplaces due to the presence of heavy machinery, uneven terrain and continuous activity. To help alleviate some of these issues, Komatsu, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of construction and mining equipment, is bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to the work site. The company is taking the next step in its SmartConstruction initiative to improve worker’s safety along with increasing productivity.

To achieve these improvements, Komatsu has partnered with Nvidia to leverage their AI technologies in this new environment. Nvidia is well-known for its medical, robotics and automotive partnerships. However, the construction industry brings a new set of challenges for the tech company with its constantly changing terrain and heavy machine capabilities. AI is central to reducing these issues.

“Modern AI turns out to be a very flexible and adaptable technology that can be applied to many industries, even if the use cases are very different,” said Jesse Clayton, Nvidia Senior Manager of Product for Intelligent Machines. “You can argue that occupational safety for construction and mining is somewhat similar to automotive, but the machines and the environments behave very differently.”

The first implementation of these technologies will be in Japan. “Japan can stand to benefit from this because of workplace injury and the nation’s severe labor shortage due to its aging population,” continued Clayton. “However, construction and mining worldwide all face the same fundamental challenges in safety, efficiency and site management.”

According to a spokesperson for Komatsu, the company will expand these technologies to other markets based on their experience with this initial deployment.

Komatsu will utilize the Nvidia Jetson platform for AI computing. Jetson works with Nvidia cloud technology to power a 360-degree view of a Komatsu construction site. The credit-card sized platform will be able to identify people and machines nearby to prevent collisions and accidents. Cameras in the Komatsu machines provide real-time data to update the driver on any rapidly changing operating condition—one of the key challenges of implementing this technology.

In addition to the platform technology, SkyCatch will provide drones to gather and map 3D images for visualizing the terrain. OPTiM, an IoT management-software company, will provide an application to identify individuals and machinery collected from the surveillance cameras. Both of these companies are members of Nvidia’s Inception Program for AI startups.

“We’ll start integrating Nvidia GPUs into our construction sites,” said Yuichi Iwamoto, senior executive officer, chief technology officer at Komatsu. “By leveraging Nvidia’s experience in image processing, virtualization and AI, we can further transform construction areas into jobsites of the future.”

Komatsu is championing these new technologies as the next step in its SmartConstruction initiative for improved worksite safety and efficiency. The initiative encourages development of technologies that will improve worker safety along with improving operational efficiencies. Facets of the program include intelligent machine products, intelligent training services, worksite data solutions and jobsite setup services.

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