• Strategy and Transformation
  • Technology and Engineering


  • Construction


GIS and AI: Transforming the construction industry

Large-scale construction projects are by their nature fraught with risk. Budgets are typically huge but unexpected hurdles – something as simple as the weather – can easily throw a project off track.

But we are entering a new phase as emerging technologies transform the sector. In particular, the integration of geographic information systems (GIS) and AI are introducing data-driven decision making to construction, with significant results.

The appetite for GIS is particularly strong in the Middle East and Africa, where the GIS market is expected to grow by almost 10% annually between 2019 and 2027. Large-scale, cutting-edge projects such as NEOM in Saudi Arabia are using the technology in innovative ways to improve productivity and worker safety and mitigate risk – and there is the potential of even greater benefits to come.

The combination of GIS and AI has huge potential in a number of important areas:

Predictive insight

Anticipating problems before they occur is one of the most significant challenges for any large construction project. GIS integrates topographical, demographic and environmental data to provide a holistic view of a project, allowing the powerful predictive insights of AI to provide detailed insights from the planning stage and beyond.

Construction professionals can visualize a development in detail, allowing them to understand the terrain and identify potential geographic challenges. This is invaluable during site selection, the planning of access routes and in managing site logistics. AI-driven GIS can anticipate and resolve logistical challenges by managing resources more efficiently, predict optimal delivery schedules for materials, forecast labor requirements, and suggest the best delivery routes using real-time traffic data.

Risk assessment

The historical data of construction incidents and the conditions that led to them are a valuable resource for assessing risk. AI algorithms analyze this data and compare current project parameters to identify patterns and predict potential issues, including structural challenges and safety hazards. GIS and AI technologies can also be used to simulate scenarios, allowing construction professionals to explore options and adjust variables to identify the best options.

GIS and AI are transforming the construction sector’s approach to environmental compliance, enabling developers and regulators to work together more collaboratively and transparently.

Environmental impact

GIS and AI are transforming the construction sector’s approach to environmental compliance by providing powerful analytical and predictive insight, enabling developers and regulators to work together more collaboratively and transparently.

GIS’ mapping capabilities and analytical tools collect and assess ecological data (including wildlife habitats, vegetation, water resources and pollution information) to enable a detailed assessment of how a construction project will interact with the environment.

Spatial analysis can be used to identify and select construction sites that involve minimal environmental disruption; AI works alongside these capabilities to analyze historical data from sites with strong environmental records and predict how decisions might impact environmental sustainability. Machine learning models are also able to optimize resource allocation and suggest alternative materials or methods that are less damaging to the environment.

The predictive powers of AI can also be used to assess possible erosion patterns, sediment accumulation and the impact of storms. This information guides the development of erosion controls and drainage systems to prevent flooding and water pollution.

GIS has proved invaluable in the planning of NEOM, which is located on a floodplain in Saudi Arabia. GIS and remote sensing were used to examine the region’s drainage basins and analyze land use patterns, which led to a better understanding of flood-related land formations and the development of flood prevention strategies.

Worker safety

Construction is one of the most hazardous sectors for workers, but the combination of GIS mapping and AI predictive insights are helping to reduce risk. Detailed maps of construction sites allow safety managers to identify specific dangers, while AI algorithms search for patterns that might lead to safety incidents. The systems continuously monitor the environment and machinery, detecting subtle changes that human supervisors might miss and prompting a rapid response to emerging threats.

The use of wearable technology and smart personal protective equipment can take this one step further by feeding even more specific data into the system. We recently completed a Proof of Concept for a forward-thinking construction entity in the region, which showed that wearable technology can contribute significantly to worker safety and wellbeing.

Monitoring progress

GIS and AI together give a comprehensive overview of construction progress, helping managers make data-driven decisions to keep a project on track and on budget. GIS’ mapping capabilities allow project managers to visualize a site in layers and compare completion against planned timelines. AI analysis of data from drones, on-site sensors and IoT devices can be used to assess the status of a project and compare actual progress to predictive models and planned benchmarks, allowing project managers to identify delays or issues at an earlier stage.

Smart city innovation

Construction command centers have traditionally functioned as operational hubs that respond to issues as they arise, but GIS and AI working in tandem are transforming these centers into proactive hubs with the ability to tackle problems before they emerge.

The integration of GIS and AI is transforming the construction industry and innovation is being pushed still further in smart city developments such as NEOM. We are moving towards a future where efficiency, quality, agility and sustainability are not aspirational goals but achievable realities.

Enabling human progress

For over three decades, Nortal has been a strategic partner to global industries, simplifying and optimizing complex processes to achieve efficiency and sustainable growth at scale. Turn your data into a strategic asset. Pave the way for a smarter, safer and more sustainable future in construction. Let’s connect.

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