TOKYO -- Komatsu is adopting artificial intelligence technologies for a service that can help construction supervisors and workers do their jobs more efficiently and rapidly.
The Japanese maker of construction machinery plans to add the AI-based service to the menu of its Smart Construction service sometime later this year.
Launched in February 2015, the advisory service uses drones and other equipment to conduct surveys and generate 3D data for uploading to construction machinery for semi-automatic operation.
With the incorporation of AI technologies, Komatsu will be able to offer a wider range of services that bring a degree of automation, not just to machinery but also to the scheme of execution.
The Japanese construction sector faces an aging and diminishing pool of skilled workers, and Komatsu sees AI as a way to replicate their knowledge and improve productivity at the building site.
When construction is delayed by heavy rains, for example, the supervisor typically decides what steps are needed based on his experience and intuition. With Komatsu's new service, the AI evaluates past instances and delivers guidance to the supervisor's digital tablet, suggesting the minimum number of extra machines and dump trucks needed to get back on schedule.
The AI can also instruct workers on ways to improve efficiency, for example by suggesting where best to excavate.
Komatsu's software incorporating AI can sharpen the precision of its guidance by learning from interactions with supervisors and workers and from daily reports directly entered to the company's system.
The company will charge a monthly fee of 78,000 yen ($683) for the service and deliver the AI software to subscribers. Construction companies and other clients will be able to use the service without purchasing new machinery.
Komatsu is spending some 15% to 20% of its research and development budget on AI and other next-generation technologies. Through partnerships with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and investments in domestic and foreign startups, the company is working toward the goal of fully automated construction machinery using AI.