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Fri September 18 2020

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Site camera firm uses AI to measure virus impact

14 Apr A company that provides site cameras for thousands of projects is using artificial intelligence (AI) to produce regular reports on the effects of the pandemic on construction activity across the USA.

The OxBlue Activity Index shows in red the states with the biggest declines
The OxBlue Activity Index shows in red the states with the biggest declines

OxBlue’s initial figures show only a slight decline in March. It will continue to produce weekly reports by determining the activity level based on near real-time field data created by measuring site activity and comparing it to previous milestones. The initial analysis covers all 50 states and more than 100 metropolitan areas. The report uses anonymized data from over 150,000 unique images and thousands of unique construction projects.

The company said that its AI capabilities for measuring construction activity levels have already been validated based on field trials, though had not been announced previously.

The tool was originally developed to assist OxBlue clients in understanding construction activity on their projects. As the crisis began to worsen, OxBlue began analysing data at a national level in order to share data with the construction industry.

"As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States, the construction industry faces incredible challenges and difficult decisions," said Chandler McCormack, CEO of OxBlue. "Because we're business owners in the trade ourselves, we understand that it's critical for companies to be able to separate the noise from the facts and make data-driven decisions."

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The first report covers construction activity for March 2020, during which many states implemented shelter-in-place orders. New reports will be published every week, with figures for the OxBlue Activity Index compared to baseline readings from early March. The data analysis covers commercial construction projects and excludes single-family residential construction.

The national level of construction activity, as measured by the OxBlue Activity Index, declined only slightly by approximately 5% in March, based on a weighted average of the construction volume for each state. March construction activity in 37 states either declined by less than 5% or actually increased. In seven states, the construction activity declined between 5% and 25%. Construction declined more dramatically between 25% and 77% for the remaining six states.

The six states with large declines have caused the majority of the national construction decline. Pennsylvania, which issued a stay-at-home order on 19th March that requires the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses, experienced the most dramatic drop of approximately 77%. Michigan has experienced an approximately 74% decline in construction activity after a stay-at-home order on March 23rd. Other states with traditionally high construction volumes experiencing significant change include Massachusetts (57% decline), Washington (45% decline), New York (43% decline) and Ohio (25% decline).

By contrast, 12 states that have not yet issued shelter-in-place orders have seen an increase in construction activity. This is offsetting the declines seen in northeastern states and in metropolitan areas.

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