Realizing the benefits of AI

Sep 24, 2023


Utilizing AI as a partner will increase our ability to design effectively, be creative, and capitalize on the possibilities of this technology now and in the future.

There is tremendous excitement in our industry around artificial intelligence and the possibilities it offers. While it isn’t a new concept or technology, recent advancements showcase its seemingly endless potential. At Bowman, we harness AI to broaden our perspective, provide enhanced services, and optimize outcomes – all in support of designers and engineers.

We are quickly approaching a world where asking an AI enabled system a simple question effortlessly generates a practical and interesting result. This innovation may ultimately remove all the tedium necessary to create impactful and functional design, resulting in a harmonious interaction between human and machine. While this outcome may be palatable and difficult to achieve, advancements have come a long way toward this end. Understanding the principles behind the technology and having realistic goals are critical elements to successful use of AI and we are already realizing its benefits.

Leveraging CV to identify and mitigate design risks. Computer vision, the AI field used to identify and classify objects in images or video, is a proven technology for numerous technical disciplines. It is being used in the geospatial field where AI quickly identifies potential project impediments and constraints during preliminary design, allowing potential project risks to be caught and addressed early.

When applied to aerial photography, CV is a powerful tool for developing geospatial data. This tool identifies the location of phenomena in and around an area of interest, such as buildings, roads, sidewalks, or other visible infrastructure. By identifying these occurrences through visual characteristics, previously unmapped areas can quickly be documented – offering enhanced awareness of a project’s impact.

Identifying potential design complexities early allows for a more informed decision-making process. An informed engineer can refine their intuition on a preliminary site design, thereby reducing the need for subsequent changes and rework. This increases the potential for a highly successful project while reducing costs.

In operations, CV has made an enormous impact on enhancing efficiency and achieving key performance metrics. Its widespread benefit throughout the industry supports success in condition assessment, supply chain management, passenger counting, physical security, traffic monitoring, workplace safety, and a whole host of other applications.

Applying AI to improve safety. Video analytics have been shown to increase safety on job sites by identifying unsafe practices or hazardous environments. While CV has helped increase safety, it is not the only AI tool that is contributing.

Natural language processing interprets large volumes of text, extracting meaning from relationships between words and sentences. In the engineering world, this technology is used to interpret and analyze incident reports to generate project specific preventative safety measures. Though safety is paramount, it is just one of the areas where NLP and other AI tools are impacting how we work.

Combining AI technologies to enhance decision making. Language-based artificial intelligence invokes thoughts of chatbots and virtual assistants, which have garnered media attention due to rapid surge in popularity. These chatbots rely on AI, NLP, natural language understanding, and natural language generation fields. NLU understands the intent and significance of queries while NLG generates natural language to represent data or a conversational thought. When combined, NLU and NLG provide meaningful user experiences, as evident by the popularity of these bots.

We handle ever-increasing volumes of data in our industry. The proliferation of the internet of things, coupled with the growing capabilities of data-capturing devices, makes presenting meaningful data a challenge. To address this, it’s critical to integrate NLG with data presentation tools, such as business intelligence and dashboards. Interactivity is an important element of successful dashboards. Integrating NLG technology into these tools provides insights that adjust with user input, thereby enhancing decision making capability.

NLP proves valuable for interpreting large or complex volumes of text – extracting meaning from relationships between words and sentences in regulatory, legal, or legislative text. It also paves the way for software interface development that enables users to interact with their data in an intuitive and conversational manner.

The application of these technologies seems boundless in our industry. Additionally, human conversational interaction with our systems can bridge a technological gap and open up new methods of operation.

AI as a partner. AI is proving to be a formidable partner for designers and engineers in the infrastructure world. As with most technology, planning out an implementation strategy is critical to the success of an AI venture. Interacting with the technology and understanding how results are generated requires skill. Utilizing AI as a partner and a tool will increase our ability to design effectively, be creative, and draw out the possibilities of this technology now and in the future. 

Ryan Belyea is chief digital officer at Bowman. Connect with him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.