Big data to cut delays on construction sites

Engineers and construction companies will be able to tell what’s under the ground before they start digging after a data-analysis company was given access to troves of information.

The aggregated data could save companies millions of pounds by avoiding ancient burial grounds and other archaeologically important sites.

Oxford-based start-up Democrata developed a way to predict the risk of such delays by having access to some of the UK’s best big-data analysts and facilities at the Hartree Centre, Cheshire after winning a competition.

Traditionally when a big construction project starts, or a major road or railway line is cut though UK’s countryside, there needs to be an archaeological investigation to ensure that historic sites are not destroyed. This often leads to substantial costs for a company and could delay the construction time.

Excavation work on the new Crossrail transit line in London for example was halted in March after construction workers stumbled across the graves of some 3,000 skeletons in what is known as the “Bedlam Burial Grounds” dating from the 17th century.

Archaeologists are expected to excavate the skeletons by September, after which construction will be able to proceed.

Democrata has mapped the whole of the UK using a 3D geovisionary programme originally developed for the British Geological Survey, and added a programme of predictive algorithms to identify where historic artefacts might still be found.

Using a cross-pollination of data with tailor-made algorithms could prevent or speed up the excavation process such as the Bedlam burial ground under Liverpool Street.

Geoff Roberts, Democrata’s chief executive, said: “We take disparate data sets, standardise them and link them together. With this project we visualise the output in geovisionary – so we plug all of the data into this mapping system and are able to fly over and through the UK landscape to see the level of risk in any location visualised in colour-coded layers. ”

The company has drawn data together from sources such as Defra, English Heritage, Scottish Natural Heritage, Ordnance Survey, the Land Registry and many more.

It aims to bring together vast amounts of disparate data created for one specific purpose and make it accessible to companies that do not currently use data and analytics to help plan their programmes of work.

“We can help companies move into parts of the market that they are currently not so strong on,” said Roberts.

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