Microsoft has often highlighted the importance of artificial intelligence (AI), especially in the past few weeks. Whether it be the launch of a book regarding the significant role of AI in manufacturing, or the detailing of its AI innovations being used to help the environment, it is apparent, and perhaps expected, that Microsoft holds the field of study in high regard. As recently as today, the company released a report describing expected global GDP growth and reduced greenhouse gas emissions through the help of AI.
Now, the Redmond firm has detailed how its AI services, along with modern drones and cameras, are being used to keep important infrastructure such as roads and bridges safe.
Initially, the common problem shared between the construction of bridges and roads is described as structural degradation due to traffic and weather conditions. Although the detection of such faults is usually quite a difficult task, Microsoft states that its tech services have successfully been implemented by various companies in order to help with it.
The Great Belt Bridge connecting the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen has been provided as an example. Sund & Bælt, which is the firm responsible for its maintenance, has worked with Microsoft to create an innovative AI solution that also harnesses the power of drones. Said drones capture thousands of pictures of the bridge, eliminating the need for manual labor, which are then uploaded to the Azure cloud. Machine learning (ML) algorithms then help detect whether cracks are present, with the in-place AI then suggesting areas which need repair. Successful implementation of this solution has led to the company using it for other bridge construction processes as well.
In a similar manner, construction company BAM Infra Nederland, along with software integrator OrangeNXT, has deployed a system that can accurately detect and classify damages on paved surfaces. This has been made possible through Azure, machine learning, and other modern AI services. The inner workings of the solution have been described in the following manner:
"The new solution sees vehicles equipped with 360-degree cameras record video footage from every angle, before they are uploaded to the Azure cloud, where AI-powered algorithms automatically flag any causes for concern. These images also capture geospatial data, allowing inspectors to accurately trace them back to their real-world location. This improves the speed, quality, efficiency, and accuracy of these visual road checks, enabling predictive asphalt maintenance, while reducing costs – freeing inspectors to focus their expertise where it is really needed."
As a result of its advantages, Microsoft also mentions that the aforementioned Netherlands-based firms are considering selling the developed system as a software-as-a-service solution.
Although the power of AI is undoubtedly being utilized in a multitude of areas in today's world, Microsoft has now demonstrated a couple of ways through which it is specifically harnessing AI to help keep roads and bridges safe.