Leaders UAE 2019: AI drives paradigm shift in UAE construction

The UAE Ministry of Infrastructure Development's Eng Anwaar Al Shimmari comments on AI adoption in construction

Eng Anwaar Al Shimmari at Leaders UAE 2019.
© ITP Media Group
Eng Anwaar Al Shimmari at Leaders UAE 2019.

As the global construction sector embraces digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the many technologies that is making engineering companies revisit their business strategies for the years ahead.

Technology was one of the big talking points at this year’s Leaders in Construction Summit UAE, which took place at the Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre on 17 September 2019, and hosted some of the biggest names in the industry to discuss several key topics impacting the sector such as dispute resolution, cost management, talent management, and diversification opportunities for the sector.

Eng Anwaar Al Shimmari, chief innovation officer and director of design at the UAE’s Ministry of Infrastructure Development, opened proceedings with a keynote speech explaining how the construction industry was witnessing a “paradigm shift” in terms of technology requirements, and the changing parameters that would impact the industry in the future. Al Shimmari said that while AI could can improve efficiencies in the construction industry, she was unsure about the sector’s willingness to adopt it.

“When we talk about demand for AI, it mostly [comes from] financial services and high-tech sectors, and construction lies behind [other industries]. This is because people are not ready. AI is costly [and] is also ambiguous,” said Al Shimmari.

She added that in order for AI adoption to be a success for the construction industry, staff training and an understanding of data were “important pillars” to do business.

“The context of AI has four important pillars: emerging technologies, disruption, data, and real-time information. Data is the skeleton of AI, and you need to have a proper flow of big data, which is like the legacy of your company. If you don’t have the right data, then you can’t really have proper AI,” she explained.

“AI requires cost, and a lot of research, understanding, and adjustment, as well as to consider how people will digest the subject.”

Centralising human needs is critical to ensure AI adoption, Al Shimmari added.

“When it comes to tech, we always hear the word ‘innovation’. Innovation is not rocket science – it is about how to add value to something that you own or to create something that is based on your needs and requirements,” she said.

“People think they can get rid of the human factor with technology, which is not the case.”

Another talking point was the expectations of the global share of AI adoption in the construction industry. Al Shimmari said China, the US, India, and Japan would lead AI adoption in the sector, with China comprising around 22% of the global market share in construction.

She explained: “The companies in these countries are ahead in research and development expenditure. Proper investment in innovation and research and development will bring desired outcomes for your company.”

Al Shimmari has 18 years of multi-discipline experience in the local architecture, urban planning, engineering, and infrastructure sectors. She holds a diploma in government innovation from the University of Cambridge, and another in executive leadership from Oxford University.

A board member at Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme, Al Shimmari is a member of numerous entities, such as the ASTM chapter in the UAE, International Association of Automation and Robotics, International Quality Learning Institute, and UAE Engineering Society.

The Leaders in Construction Summit was supported by Gold Sponsors, HFW and Pinsent Masons; Silver Sponsors, Addleshaw Goddard, Exactal, and Al Tamimi & Co; Claims Sponsor, HKA; Legal Sponsor, Reed Smith; Lanyard Sponsor, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP); Intelligence Partner, ProTenders; Training Partner, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; and Exhibitors, Deltek, Construction Computer Software (CCS), Beaver Gulf Group, Facilio, and CCC.

For full coverage from Construction Week’s Leaders in Construction Summit, visit constructionweekonline.com.

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