Participants at the World Economic Forum found themselves discussing the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution, which focuses on removing the barriers between man and machine, encouraging cooperation and learning to embrace their advantages. Just like the famed first industrial revolution, the idea is to transform lives, industry and technologies in aim to take us all forward towards a better and more advanced future.

Artificial Intelligence and robotics are rapidly developing, with it becoming more widely accepted and seen across the world. We know of robots being used to increase efficiency in such areas as factories aiding manufacturing and packing, but the extent of its potential spans way beyond this. A San Francisco hotel has robots working to help them undertake simple day to day undertakings required within a hotel, including delivering towels and toothpaste, while the likes of Amazon use robots to speed up warehouse processes.

While robots have enjoyed huge success, it is by no means a given that they will take over all tasks – as for example, certain processes such as travelling over rugged terrains and folding a towel can be a difficult task for a robot, whereby one study quoted that it took a robot 25 minutes to fold a towel.

AI, as you may well have used in the form of Siri, the iPhone helper, is another huge development. While the likes of Siri are fascinating through their ability to recognise your voice and supply a satisfactory answer, these types of AI are limited in regards to the amount of data they can hold and limited in answering questions when not worded in the ways they are programmed to understand. Solving this type of problem is the next big stumbling block when it comes to advancement.

The effects on construction industry

Despite challenges with robotics and AI, they have huge potential to benefit the construction industry. For example, a robot is able to access a small area that would pose significant risk to a person that would have to do it. Some of the most repetitive tasks that take significant time could also be reduced, making way for physical human efforts to be placed towards more productive use. Civil engineering North Wales believe that when robots and AI is programmed, it can carry out data entry, document management, organisation of meetings and even place orders, all of which if undertaken effectively will improve operations, efficiency and customer experience.

In order to have these robots working alongside us, we need to undertake much of the development and management ourselves. Working in cooperation is the key to optimal outcomes, ensuring a happy and efficient workforce.

Are there risks with robots?

Many are worried that robots could take over our jobs. Could their technologies really match or surpass humans? The creator of Cleverbot says that “We will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realised, thanks to robots of the future“.

One of the biggest and most imminent impacts of this technological revolution will be the effect that it has on the workforce, whereby a recent WEF report quoted that over 7 million jobs could be a risk across manufacturing, retail and administration.

This could represent a 50% share of the workers in construction. The task of upskilling, retraining and reskilling the workforce will be an important process required to ensure that there are new jobs generated by the influx or robots and AI, rather than the contrary. Dusseldorf airport is operating a robotic car parking valet service, yet humans are needed to oversee, manage and repairs robots, which requires a new type of skill set and is in fact a completely new role, suggesting jobs could be built through these types of development.

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