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Combination of multi-sensor scanning and artificial intelligence for underground detection | Geographic Week News

Exodigo’s new approach to solving a crucial problem in the construction industry.

It’s no secret that the construction industry is generally seen as a sector that is apprehensive about adding digital tools to its workflow, an ‘old school’ business that struggles to project itself in the future. Some of this is absolutely overblown – there have been dynamic technological developments in recent years – and there are many valid reasons why AEC companies are more risk averse than their counterparts in other industries, but that’s is a reputation with which they frequently deal. One area, however, where this seems to be less of an issue is in underground sensing, mapping what’s happening below the surface. It makes sense that stakeholders are more willing to go all-in, so to speak, in this area, given what we’ve already talked about how a lack of knowledge about underground facilities can lead to dangerous situations for workers. and surrounding communities. , as well as potentially costly delays.

In Israel there is a relatively young company, Exodigo, seeking to help local businesses and municipalities more easily and accurately capture what’s happening underground. The company’s Chief Commercial Officer, Aurelia Setton, was kind enough to sit down with Geo Week News to explain how the company provides accurate maps to its customers and some other areas it can cover beyond underground infrastructure.

Exodigo was founded with a knowledge base of underground detection, with the founders meeting as intelligence analysts in the Israeli military. To speak at the highest and most general level, the company uses a multi-sensor approach to scan the subsurface with a number of different methods and then feeds all that data into an AI system that can produce a map detail of anything below the surface that could potentially pose a risk to a project. They have worked largely in Israel and the United States – including on projects for Caltrans – and are also beginning to establish themselves in Europe.

How does their underground detection method work?

In our conversation with Setton, it made more sense to just start with how their process works, specifically with the exact methods they use to detect any underground object that could pose a risk to a construction project. As Setton said, Exodigo uses “all the best radar out there that can actually work in the kind of ground we’re working on.” Different projects call for different methods – for example, while most of their projects are done with a cart equipped with a number of different sensors, sometimes they also use drones for more rural areas – but generally they use a collection of sensors which includes ground penetrating radar (GPR), electromagnetic sensors, metal detectors, etc. They also use existing records, although anyone working in this field will often know that these records are, more often than not, unreliable or even completely inaccurate and outdated.

Data processing on the Tel Aviv Chasm site, via Exodigo

Once all of this data is collected with the various sensors deployed by Exodigo, whether collected via cart or drone, or a combination of the two, there is still the data processing to create an accurate map. This can be a time-consuming effort for a human, even assuming they have the training to gather all the information. Instead, Exodigo can complete many projects in just one day after scanning thanks to its AI system, which can easily integrate all this information, determine what is important inside and create the map whose project stakeholders need.

The benefits of Exodigo’s approach

There are a few key advantages that are presented with this approach, starting simply with time. As Setton explains, the main difference with Exodigo’s system is that they do everything up front. She notes that while the status quo isn’t bad, “they’re usually done piecemeal one after another, and usually people start with records that are generally inaccurate.” And aside from often just being a faster process, Exodigo allows project managers to start with a more accurate map than one built on existing records which, again, are usually not up to date and exact.

The AI ​​element also adds a key layer of protection by, as Setton puts it, “removing human bias.” She further explains that humans typically use “visual cues” and she cites an example where if you see two stares you assume there’s a line between them, although that’s not always the case. On the other hand, with Exodigo’s approach, “when we go for an AI approach and essentially a multi-detection approach, if the line stops in the middle because at some point it was a power line that was down and there was a streetlight, and now they’re not because the road has widened, we’ll see that. They incorporate human intelligence to make sure all the maps make sense, but it comes after the AI ​​has done its job, not before.

Other uses of the approach

It’s no surprise that Exodigo primarily works with construction companies and local governments with this technology, but that’s not the only way to use it. A clear example occurred recently in Tel Aviv when a sinkhole has opened up on one of the city’s main roadways. Exodigo’s offices were not far from the scene, and their multi-detection approach was used to determine other high-risk areas on this stretch of road. While this use case is not yet commercially available, the company is working to further develop its ability to test areas with a higher risk of sinkholes. They can also be used for archaeological purposes, with Setton noting that they have conducted drone tests to identify underground arrowheads in the United States.

Construction companies are always looking for ways to keep their workers safe and avoid costly delays to their projects. Hitting undetected infrastructure below the surface poses problems on both fronts, and Exodigo’s approach combining multi-detection detection strategies with AI specializes in this area. And as noted above, this is an area where industry players are willing to risk new approaches.