5 startups with innovations for preventing the next construction disaster


Last Monday, a four-storey parking lot in the Ramat Hahayal hi-tech zone in Tel Aviv collapsed. The reasons for the collapse of the parking lot, which was in the advanced construction stages, are not yet clear, but it is believed that the upper ceiling fell, causing the collapse of the ceilings below it.

In the Geektime offices, located just three buildings away from the scene of the disaster, we were well aware of the blocked roads and the strenuous efforts, still taking place, to rescue those injured and trapped.

In events of this type, it is difficult to refrain from trying to understand how the disaster might possibly have been prevented, and which technologies can help prevent such events from occurring in the future. We have attempted to find which companies are currently offering practical developments that can provide a solution now, and we discovered a considerable number of relevant companies.

The following five stand out especially:

1. Airobotics – Drones that detect faults from above

Airobotics's done on its launchpad Photo Credit: PR
Airobotics’s done on its launchpad Photo Credit: PR

Airobotics has developed a platform and a completely autonomous aviation system that enables companies to utilize the many advantages of drones without the need for human involvement. Among other things, the drones can perform tasks such as inspection, maintenance checks, and surveys of machinery and security for huge facilities, such as industrial plants, seaports, and mines. The drone is capable of performing a large number of new and regular tasks, and when its battery is used up, it simply lands on the landing station and replaces its own battery. The platform makes it possible to use the same drone for different purposes. The product has just now completed a pilot overseas that began about a year ago.

In the construction industry, the drone can help perform inspections. It is difficult to spot fissures and structural weaknesses in high structures or structures with many joints, such as the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. In order to save on personnel and avoid endangering human life, the drone can perform high-quality close up inspection of the structure all by itself on a consistent basis without having to shut down operations for safety concerns. For example, a drone can examine the thickness of walls and whether they are capable of bearing the weight to be put on them, the preciseness of angles, whether there is dangerous sinkage in materials, and whether everything meets the preset standards.

The company completed a $28.5 million financing round in June 2016, led by a number of funds and investors, including Waze co-founder Noam Bardin. Airobotics, founded by CEO Ran Krauss and VP R&D Meir Kliner in 2014, has 70-odd employees in its Petah Tikva offices. The company is Krauss’s third startup in the drones segment.

2. Dronomy – 3D mapping of construction sites using drones

Dronomy's drone Photo Credit: The company's Facebook page
Dronomy’s drone Photo Credit: The company’s Facebook page

Drononmy is developing what it calls a “drone brain”, a system that enables drones to fly by themselves without control or intervention by an operator, while avoiding collisions with objects, buildings, and people. The system attains these capabilities by means of advanced computer vision algorithms developed by Dronomy.

Dronomy partner-founder and CEO Ori Aphek says, “Our solution makes it possible to send a drone to a construction site, get close to objects, and photograph them at high resolution in great detail. The information is put on the cloud, and generates a 3D model of the structure. There’s no need for trained operators; anyone on the spot can operate it. Today, both the regulator and the contractor send safety inspectors to construction sites. A drone like this can back them up, or even replace them through remote control safety inspection. Unfortunately, the use of drones for building site safety in Israel is practically non-existent. Regulation in Israel makes it very difficult to use drones commercially because a business has to spend tens of thousands of shekels and invest months of work, train an employee, and more in order to get approval from Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority in the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety. The market we’re aiming at is therefore the American market, where we have already done a pilot, and the product will be launched later this year.”

Dronomy raised $1.5 million in September 2015 from Battery Ventures, among others, and was one of the startups that took part in Geektime Conference 2015.

3. Vayyar – Analysis through materials, objects, and liquids

WalabotDIY Photo Credit: PR
WalabotDIY Photo Credit: PR

This Israeli company is developing 3D imaging sensors that can see through materials objects, and liquids. The sensor is capable of looking through walls in order to identify and study the fundamental elements it is made of, and of tracking and locating a person moving inside a building. The sensors scan the object, and generate a 3D image of its content. They are also able to identify movement and speed, and to keep track of a large number of people in large areas. CEO and chairperson Raviv Melamed, CTO Naftali Chayat, and VP R&D Miri Ratner founded the company in 2011. Vayyar’s solution is already being used by Fortune 500 companies, and the company is gradually expanding to other industries. For example, it can measure the speed of a thrown ball, the percentage of fat in milk, and the quality of the foundations in the walls of buildings. The company is a graduate of the Tyco Innovation accelerator.

The company launched its product, Walabot, in the US two week ago. Walabot helps people who want to renovate their homes see what is behind the house walls, and to spot movement (of rats and termites, for example). The product is currently aimed at private consumers, but the company says it plans to expand the service it provides to other markets, with an emphasis on organizations and other companies, including construction companies.

Vayyar completed a $22 million Series B financing round in December 2015, led by Walden Riverwood.

4. ShapeDo – Smart and precise management of construction sites

Image Credit: Shapedo
Image Credit: Shapedo

ShapeDo offers a management tool for designing construction and infrastructure projects for the purpose of saving time and money. The tool focuses engineering information that makes it possible to monitor changes and adjustments between different versions of the plan and various parties. It makes engineering information visually accessible immediately, while saving on resources. The project mangers in the field can monitor the many changes in their plans made by all the parties. During this time period, many changes are still being made, which causes great confusion among the various parties involved in the construction and can lead to financial loss, and delay in the work.

Founded by CEO Ari Isaacs in 2014, ShapeDo has raised $650,000 from the Incentive incubator and the Pix Vine Capital fund. The company took part in the 8200 EISP and Siftech accelerators.

5. SmartSite – A monitoring unit for building sites

Photo Credit: Smartsite's website
Photo Credit: Smartsite’s website

This brand-new company, founded in 2016, offers a tool that makes it possible to manage a safe work environment on construction sites. The product is placed in the construction site area, and continually examines a number of parameters: the noise level, dust levels, radiation levels, etc. The tool makes it possible to test the exposure of employees to hazardous materials on the site, alerts employees that they need a break, and automatically records all the information on the cloud. No previous knowledge is needed; you just put the module in place, turn it on, and it does the rest.

The company has raised $120,000 from Y Combinator, and has received assistance from state-owned British company Network Rail.

Want to learn more about startups in this sector and others? Speak with Geektime’s Data Intelligence team for more details.


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