Lauren Nassef

Lauren Nassef

“Self-driving cars can identify objects as they drive,” a video from the company Smartvid.io proclaims. “What if we could bring this ability to the industrial world?” The Cambridge, Mass.–based outfit has developed technology to do just that: It offers software that analyzes huge amounts of data—in the form of photos and videos from construction sites—to identify safety risks that might not be evident to a human observer. It tags, for example, workers who are missing hard hats and types of ladders considered risky, promising to help “reinforce safety culture.”

“The risks might not be obvious right away, but when you look at the total data, it emerges,” says Imdat As, an expert in the rise of artificial intelligence in the field of architecture and founder of Arcbazar, a competition platform for architectural design projects. As notes that this type of artificial intelligence used by Smartvid.io—called deep learning—is an early application of what we’ll see from AI in architecture more broadly, such as computer tools that will offer alternative design solutions.

Many architects are excited about these opportunities, and some large firms are exploring the latest technology. But what about smaller firms? According to the AIA’s 2018 Firm Survey Report, 75.8 percent of firms have one to nine employees. How will these smaller outfits, with smaller budgets, confront the rise of AI? Though smaller firms may face resource challenges, as artificial intelligence tools become more widespread and less expensive, they perhaps stand to benefit the most.