Automated Monitoring & Control System Group

2018 Winner: Outstanding Achievement In Applied Technology sponsored By SAIT

Data analysis technology visualizes construction progress

The Automated Monitoring and Control System Group developed technology to provide a comprehensive and integrated framework to automate process monitoring of construction projects. Using point clouds acquired from construction sites as input, the technology provides a robust, automated and integrated framework for a multitude of construction applications. The group is helmed by Dr. Reza Maalek, Dr. Derek Lichti and Dr. Janaka Ruwanpura.

What problem did you see a need to solve and how did you solve this real- world problem?

Reza Maalek, I’m a postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary.: The problem with monitoring and control is that it’s being performed manually right now. How you assess the performance of projects is a process that is carried out quite often on construction sites. We wanted to make this process automated because the manual process is labour intensive, time consuming and the processing of the data is subjective. We built this new framework to use currently available technologies that are not being utilized to their fullest potential and utilize them to their fullest, minimize liabilities, and help with reporting.

To automate construction processes, there are different methods and technologies available. Right now, many in the industry do not use laser scanners to their fullest potential because of the complexities of processing the data. It’s very challenging to analyze the data when you are collecting it, so most of the industry doesn’t go to that route of using the most advanced technology that can provide 100 percent complete data capturing. We wanted to provide a sustainable solution to fully automate this process with an amazing technology to get around that manual intervention.

What has been the impact?

There are many applications that we’ve been solving. For example, if we want to identify the surface flatness of a wall with current systems, you can check only a couple of points here or there to identify whether it is to the specifications or not. With laser scanners, you can get an image of the points that represent the whole wall.

The problem with laser scanners is that there’s a lot of data that needs to be processed. It is very challenging, time consuming and costly. Our system extracts the data automatically, using semantic information and the most up-to-date and cutting edge technologies available. The industry impact is the completeness and quality of the output data, meaning we have a complete set of data about every piece of the structure (to determine) whether it complies with the quality control measures.

Now, we have a fully automated system that is standardized, that has a known accuracy and is not subjective.

Has being in Alberta helped you find success? 

We were fortunate to work with contractors, the Calgary Construction Association, Cana, PCL, and VEERUM. These are all opportunities that were here in Alberta because there is an open mind to utilize this technology in many different construction sites. We were able to utilize this in two building construction sites at the University of Calgary, one recreational facility, two oil and gas fabrication plants and the Brooks Aqueduct.

Who have been your major supporters?

The University of Calgary, and my two supervisors, Professors Janaka Ruwanpura and Derek Lichti were my main supporters. We (also) received an NSERC Discovery grant which was the major reason we could utilize this system that I developed during my PhD work. It was a tough four and a half years and a continuous process, which was supported by my supervisors. We received an NSERC Engagement grant to help us increasingly utilize this system.

What are the plans for the future?

With the Microsoft HoloLens, we want to take this system from its current form in a computer and make the system a hologram in a construction site. This would allow a site supervisor to walk around while the system provides information regarding any need for rework.

I’m also passionate about a mobile mapping system that takes the laser scanners and makes the process fully automated using a small vehicle that is able to perform properly in sub optimal construction site scenarios.

How does it feel to be an ASTech Finalist?

It’s amazing. I was very, very happy. It’s a very prestigious award. It provides the opportunity to showcase and recognize the quality of our work. The fact that we were nominated and referenced by industry partners and of course by the University is very fulfilling because we’ve had sleepless nights, we’ve worked significantly and now with this recognition, we can say it’s something that is having an impact. It doesn’t change the quality of the work we do, but it is certainly encouraging.