At hundreds of construction sites, a safety inspector named Vinnie is watching the workers, keeping tabs on those who show up without work gloves or use the wrong kind of ladder. Vinnie doesn’t miss much.
That’s because Vinnie is software — an all-seeing artificial intelligence system developed by a Cambridge startup, Newmetrix. Chief executive Josh Kanner named the program after a man he knows, a New Jersey construction superintendent with a photographic memory. He sounds a lot like the digital Vinnie, which analyzes photographs at construction sites to spot hazardous conditions. And according to research conducted with the help of Boston’s Suffolk Construction — an investor in Newmetrix — Vinnie can predict workplace accidents before they happen.
Like other image-recognition systems, Vinnie has been trained using real-world images. Contractors routinely shoot digital photos and videos at every stage of construction, as a way to verify the work has been properly done. Builders often use time-lapse cameras mounted in fixed positions that take photos at regular intervals. Safety inspectors and project managers carry cameras of their own, and some building projects are shot from the sky using remotely-controlled drones.