Drones and big data analytics changing the construction industry
We have all been affected by the inconvenience of traffic jams because of construction sites. The vast majority of construction goes overtime and over budget, if not a headache for those working on the project, a massive inconvenience for drivers. One company in Israel is providing construction data analytics, combining drone and computer vision technology, cloud computing and big data, as a brilliant, automated solution for the up and coming construction-technology industry. Their solution saves millions of dollars, delivers accuracy and insights unprecedented in the construction industry, all while significantly reducing the amount of time spent on construction sites.
Written by Nachshon Ben
Behold Israel interviewed Datumate and its VP of products and strategy, Itay Segev. Datumate is a small startup with an already broad reach within the construction technology industry. They have 23 employees, mostly civil engineering, construction and hi-tech professionals, with offices in the United States and their headquarters in Yokneam, Israel, about a 20-minute drive from Haifa. They are a diverse team of Israeli Jews, Arab Christians and Muslims. Datumate is a pioneer in introducing software and big data into an industry that has remained relatively traditional. The company was founded in 2012 and focused on a solution for land surveyors and civil engineers. In 2017, “Datumate changed direction and went up the value chain” and decided to build a platform for general constructors and construction developers, using their computer vision technologies, but now adding analytics layers and their cloud platform which they launched last year.
Segev has been with Datumate for close to four years. His job centers on the product and strategy side, but given it being a startup, he has a slew of other responsibilities. One thing is quite certain — Segev is a seasoned hi-tech professional and knows what he is doing. “I come from the hi-tech industry, specifically in data, security, virtualization and software companies,” he explained. “While Datumate is a hi-tech company, it provides solutions for the construction industry. We are a construction hi-tech company.”
The term “construction hi-tech company” is a new one, designating the intersection of the traditional construction industry with hi-tech solutions, technologies, and software. “Datumate is a construction and data analytics company. We developed a platform that helps construction developers, general constructors, and project managers to monitor their construction sites on a daily or weekly basis.” Utilizing drone technology, computer vision, cloud computing, and big data, their solution is not only efficient, it is changing the industry for the better.
How does it work? Segev explained the multidimensional process. “It starts with collecting data using drones. We actually developed DatuFly, a free app, that automates drone flights planning and image capturing according to best practices. The user defines the region of interest and the app does the rest.” Getting further into detail, he explained what is done with the autonomously collected data. “After the drone lands back, the images are uploaded to a secure cloud where we automatically process these images to 3D and 2D maps, using computer vision, and photogrammetry algorithms. Our solution supports survey-grade accuracy, meaning it has a deviation of 1 cm and the data collected can be used by civil engineers with the precision that they require. Bringing this to the next level of data analytics, we are creating a digital twin of the construction site, which we can compare to the design plan we get from our customers. That’s where the real magic happens.”
Segev emphasized that almost all construction projects suffer from the same issues: over-budget and over-time. “Knowing the tight margins in the construction industry, every savings can make a huge difference,” he told us. Datumate’s solution changes the way how construction projects are being monitored and managed. In an industry that has no room for error, it provides detailed analytics and constant updates with little to no manpower at all. Time is of the essence, he explained. “All data is collected, analyzed, and delivered within 24-48 hours – that would usually take around a month. The data and insights help you manage and control your construction site. We designed our solution for large infrastructure construction sites, such as roads, railways, etc. Here your ability to control complex processes and large areas in short intervals can make a real impact in terms of budgeting, scheduling, and profitability.”
He went on, “We provide progress monitoring to our customers. They can know exactly how they progress in terms of time, quality, budget, work management and receive notifications on reports on their construction sites.” For mega projects that cost billions of dollars, this is a huge leap! He shared, “Our solution dramatically reduces the direct professional costs by 20% (budget control, schedule management, supervision, surveying and much more) with indirect savings up to 3-5% of the project execution costs.”
The company boasts clients like Deutsche Bahn, the largest railway company in Europe, and Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing, a major Israeli water company and many others. With customers in the US, Europe, and Israel, Datumate is at the verge of releasing DatuBIM, their automated construction data analytics platform, in an even more enhanced version in the next couple of months.
When asked on the significance of this solution coming from Israel, Segev, as with many we have interviewed, spoke of the Startup Nation. “Being a startup nation means, that hi-tech companies seek to create relevant solutions that will last and dramatically change the way things work today.” He added, “From a profit or automation perspective, from cost-saving and efficiency, we are looking to bring real value to our customers. Our ability to sense the pain points of the market and then use technology to transform these points and needs to a real solution that people actually use, this is something amazing. I am not sure in which other countries you can find this hype of startup culture.”
Segev also told us about the unique ecosystem for construction technology startups within Israel. “In the last couple of years, we see more and more in this field, about 30 new companies in Israel.” He said that there is a unique community of startups addressing the many and diverse challenges of the “least digitized and automated industry in the world with less than 1% going into research and development.” In Israel, you will find construction forums and hubs, as well as programs helping startups create pilots, fund their projects, enter the market and much more. Segev described how they all support one another and work together to find the world’s next solutions for the construction industry. “The construction hi-tech industry in Israel is a sort of hub where each startup understands it’s worthwhile to help each other and work together… This is something that can really make a difference for startups.”