07 Oct AI-enabled building inspections improve infrastructure resilience
By Patricia B. Mirasol
WaveScan Technologies, a Singapore-based deep-tech startup, is pitching timely maintenance inspections that are data-driven and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled.
This kind of maintenance prolongs a building’s life and reduces the need for demolition and reconstruction — the biggest culprits of the construction industry’s carbon emissions.
“When infrastructure stakeholders have complete information on the condition of a building and its aging process, they can make timely decisions and subsequently prolong the lifetime of that asset,” said WaveScan founder and Chief Executive Officer Kush Agarwal.
AI-enabled inspection, which uses smart sensor systems and drones, is like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for infrastructure.
Since its inception in 2018, WaveScan has been developing proprietary technology that it hopes will standardize the AI-enabled inspection of assets such as buildings, aircrafts, and bridges.
Its non-contact technology uses electromagnetic scanner technology that sees through structures.
The fact that the sensor doesn’t have to be in physical contact with walls makes it ideal for a pandemic world that often requires a reduced onsite workforce, said Mr. Agarwal. The applications of its see-through feature, meanwhile, is not limited to buildings.
“The technology is agnostic,” Mr. Agarwal said. “It can also be used for medical or surveillance applications.”
The startup developed a scanner system that employs millimeter wave imaging that operates in 5G frequencies, and can be used for the contactless detection of parameters such as perspiration and heart rate.
Mr. Agarwal told BusinessWorld that inspection practices as they currently stand are manual and surface-level, which make it a challenge to nip structural defects such as cracks and voids in the bud.
Current inspection practices also employ a fix-when-broken mentality, which translates to financial losses as well as an inevitable loss of lives.
Apart from its advanced sensor systems, WaveScan also taps complementary technologies such as drones and AI to generate data in a fast, economical, and accurate manner. When there is less wear and tear, less repair work is needed.
The 2017 Global Status Report by the International Energy Agency noted that the building and construction industry contributes 39% of the world’s carbon emissions.
In his winning pitch at the Asian Development Bank Ventures’ series Climatic, Mr. Agarwal pointed out that the biggest culprit for these emissions are demolition and reconstruction costs.
Climatic is described as “a series about innovators decarbonizing Asia and the Pacific, entrepreneurs making the region more resilient to climate change, and the corporate leaders partnering with them to scale.”
In the Philippine context, building a database of relevant information enables local cities to make proactive and timely decisions especially during natural disasters.
“This also minimizes the downtime of assets,” said Mr. Agarwal.
A change is mindset is the most important part in the adoption of digital solutions such as non-destructive testing for industrial applications. Spending on this department will have to be spearheaded by industries and governments, as individuals may be initially resistant to change, Mr. Agarwal said.
“The ecosystem is already building up,” he told BusinessWorld. “We have limited natural resources in the world, and it’s our collective responsibility to minimize our carbon footprint.”