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In a technology-driven exclusive video interview with CONSTRUCTION WORLD, Anirudh Reddy shares more on how the demand for construction and infrastructure will continue, how technology is disrupting the sector, machine intelligence, and more...
Einsite coping with the lockdown: Since Einsite is primarily a software technology company, majority of our team is still functioning at a pretty high level of productivity. In fact, we have seen some of our software engineers perform better when they are working from home. In terms of sales and marketing, things have taken a bit of a pause. Having said that, we are seeing a lot of new opportunities; for example, some of the solutions that we are thinking around is to do with the COVID-19 crisis and how we can use our technology to help companies navigate out of that as well as some of our other software products which are pretty easy for us to deploy remotely.
COVID impact on the Gayatri Projects: Gayatri Projects is our group company. While the two companies operate at completely different levels, what I have learned is that the main issue for a construction contractor like Gayatri Projects has been internal logistics within India. Luckily, the firm does not rely too much on imports from China or from other parts of the world. In fact, a lot of machinery used for existing projects is manufactured in India. The company already has all the machinery on-hand. One of the big bottlenecks we have seen in our road projects is on raw materials such as cement and steel, because these are resources that have to be brought in from other parts of the country, and then internal logistics even between states has been a bit of a challenge. Of course, there has also been an impact in terms of a lot of the contract labour or trying to move or go back to their villages during the crisis. Having said that, most of the migrant labour has remained on site, where the company is providing food, shelter, etc. It is encouraging to see how the individual project managers have taken all of this up with full enthusiasm, not only in terms of allowing these people to be onsite but also to begin work starting on April 20th while maintaining social distancing all the safety measures required. In this crisis, we have been able to set up sanitising stations.
Strategies in place: Broadly, at Einsite, we remain focused on heavy civil construction and mining – these are two large and growing sectors we believe they will also be the first to bounce back from the crisis situation. Looking at the broader recession that is expected in India and globally, we believe that the governments of the world will definitely put their resources towards building new infrastructure because it not only increases competitiveness and creates growth in the GDP, but also creates jobs. In fact, this is probably the only industry where the government, if it has the funding, can decide to create the number of jobs and the amount of production within the country. As long as they have both of these in place, they can start production in the coming months, because all you need are the machines and local materials like quarries. Also, this is different from other heavy industries such as steel or cement, which have a long gestation period as they have to set up factories over the course of years and set up global supply chains both in terms of their input materials as well as the products they supply out to the world.
Construction is well positioned over the next few years and that remains to be our focus in terms of the products we are bringing to the industry. We have a lot of different technologies that we bring to the industry but on a high level what we bring is intelligence that can improve productivity and efficiency. We have done this in the past using telematic sensors in heavy machines, in using cameras that can actually use AI and computer vision algorithms to automatically track what's happening on site as well as that are used by people in the field.
Over the next six months, what we are seeing is an uptick in is the apps themselves which can be deployed and used without any physical contact or without any logistics in between and we are seeing a lot of demand on that front. For example, we have an app called the fuel auger which allows companies to track their fuel consumption, etc – all just using an app even without any hardware that has to be installed easily on the camera. On the computer vision front, we are continuing to see interest from companies who want to be able to track and continue to keep their productivity up. Even managers or the people from the headquarters can physically visit these sites and have a camera in place that can use an algorithm to tell you your how many tonnes of material your excavators are moving, how much production is it driving for, and how is all of this aligning with your goals or targets.
Another thing we have recently done a couple of weeks ago is expanding the capabilities of that AI in computer vision system to also track social distancing and whether people are wearing masks on site. This, of course, is just an extension of the employee health and safety metrics that we already used to track. We already used to identify automatically from the video feed of the camera where the people are and whether they are wearing their helmets and their PPE and so on so it wasn't too much of an extension from that. So now the platform can also detect how far apart workers are in the field, whether they are maintaining the 6-ft distance and if they are not we can trigger an alarm. We hope that companies will find this to be an important part of restarting operations and then reaching capacity in a way that's safe for their workers.
Construction opportunities: The impact has been purely short-term because of just the restriction on movement and travel. A few of our clients were all geared up to roll out our sensors onto their machines and their projects. We had to put that on hold temporarily only because we physically couldn't visit them but it's been reassuring to see that all the existing clients continue to be excited about what we are doing and want to pick up exactly where we left off.
I continue to be optimistic that this industry itself is going to see a boost because the economies and the governments of the world are looking for ways to create new growth and job opportunities. People have also done something they had never done before – they have now started doing their meetings running parts of their business over videoconferencing. So, we are starting to see the mindsets change where there is a realisation on the use of technology. And it is a boost definitely in the long-term.
Watch the full video to know more on what Anirudh Reddy has to say technology disrupting the industry...
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