Disperse, a construction technology company based in the United Kingdom that provides an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform to help project managers track work and collect data from construction sites, has raised $16 million in funding.
Disperse, which was founded in London in 2015, effectively creates a digital version of an entire construction site, including visual snapshots that track the progress of work to help all stakeholders — regardless of location — stay on top of things. For this, someone on the site (for example, a project manager) walks around at regular intervals with a standard 360° camera, and the resulting imagery is fed directly into the Disperse platform, which processes the visuals and applies computer vision techniques to figure out what’s going on.
For example, this can be used to demonstrate the status of a project at a given point in time and resolve disputes about whether a job was completed correctly.
It also automatically identifies potential issues or bottlenecks while they are still manageable.
Disperse, in general, combines drawings, plans, construction schedules, and all of the elements that go into a construction project to help those in charge keep track of everything digitally, reduce risk, and ensure everyone is on the same page.
While the trillion-dollar construction industry often gets a bad rap for inefficiency, Disperse founder and CEO Felix Neufeld claims that this is due to a lack of access to digital technology that can truly shift the needle.
“I actually believe that this perception or construction of laggards is a misconception,” Neufeld told TechCrunch. “After years of working on projects and with companies in both Europe and the United States, we can unequivocally state that there is no attitude problem — but there is a severe technology problem.” Despite false promises from technology companies, many construction companies and teams are willing to try new solutions and have ended up with more of a burden.
Indeed, Neufeld cited a slew of technologies including workflow, robotics, and BIM (building information modeling) tools as examples of companies investing in the next big thing but failing to deliver.
“We see most technology on sites quickly become either fully abandoned or ‘zombie software,’ which means the initiatives are technically still active but are only kept alive for perception or contractual obligations, without fulfilling their functional purpose,” Neufeld said.
Other notable players in the space include San Francisco-based OpenSpace, which recently closed a $102 million funding round, and Israel’s Buildots, which recently closed a $60 million funding round. As a result, it is clear that investors are still eager to support the next big construction industry movers and shakers.
“I would say that the challenges of the pandemic contributed to driving investment in this space, but the productivity problem is still a massive elephant in the room in one of the world’s largest industries,” Neufeld continued. “Construction accounts for approximately 12% of total GDP and has an impact on almost every other industry that relies on it, but construction productivity has completely stagnated over the last 40 years or so.” It’s a massive problem that won’t be easy to solve.”