AI will invert infrastructure industry, says BST Global CEO

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Javier Baldor, chief executive at BST Global, has told the ACEC Engineering Influence podcast that AI and machine learning will invert and transform infrastructure industry business models.  

Speaking at the ACEC’s spring convention in Washington DC, Baldor expressed his optimism for artificial intelligence for the construction world, saying: “AI and big data is going to transform our industry. I truly believe it. Some may look at it as a threat. I see it really as a tremendous prize and opportunity.”

The scale of that opportunity is not small. Some studies of AI have shown that around half of all current tasks can be done faster and to the same level of quality if done through AI.  That is something that cannot be overlooked despite some concerns about the implications.

Asked about the potential for error by AI, Baldor accepted that there would be some risks, but that with the competitive and innovation advantages, that was something that had to be addressed with suitable quality assurance and quality control. And he warned that industry could not shy away from change now.

“I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years and it’s been fundamentally run the same way. Everything is reactive in nature, accounting driven, accounting focused and I venture to say most firms and multiple services at this conference are using only about 4% to 5% of their data,” he said.

As that changes, Baldor expects an inversion of the industry. “I think the business model is going to dramatically change for the consultants in the future,” he said. “This industry is a tech industry. It’s a data industry and really understanding the business model and how to monetise that data I believe is a game changer. Right now it’s very hour-centric. The work product is transferred to the client. I would argue that that model should be inverted.

“There’s tremendous value that is being transferred to the owner of the project as opposed to the author of the project. And there’s a real prize there that someone is going to figure out because this industry is all about data and you see it very commonly and in the likes of the Googles and the Metas. They are data companies and they monetise their businesses in a very astute manner. I think the same thing holds promise for our industry,” says Baldor.

For the whole discussion, you can listen to the Engineering Influence podcast here.