AL and automation in grounds maintenance

AI and automation in grounds maintenance

AI and automation in grounds maintenance


Sci-Fi writers have written many amazing and horrific stories about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation. However, how much is fact and how much is fiction is the underlying question we all ask. AI and Automation is finding its way into everything and grounds maintenance is no exception.

As technology, especially computer technology and systems advance, many of the administrative tasks within the grounds maintenance sector can be wholly or partially automated. Inventory control, timesheet management, resource planning and even work inspection can be managed with technology. The automation of these tasks frees up time and reduces costs and some of the automation filters down from management to individual staff members.

When it comes to operating grounds maintenance equipment, little automation can take place other than technology on board. Control of many functions on tractors or excavators and some lawn mowers can be automated rather than adjusting manually. To a degree, AI can assist in selecting optimal settings for specific equipment, but it still needs a human to drive, hold or use it. Thankfully, as a Financial Times online tool can identify, many grounds maintenance tasks are robot-proof.

Nevertheless, while many tasks may be robot-proof, technology and AI is improving some tasks and assisting in many others. Through the use of soil sensors, for example, soil type, moisture levels and even the amount of light and shade an area gets can all be analysed. For grounds maintenance, this use of AI can pay out considerable dividends. Knowing whether or not to water is becoming of vital importance by understanding if the soil has enough moisture for the plants growing saves time, effort, money and water. Automated watering solutions using the data from the ground combined with knowing what is planted makes grounds watering highly effective.

As with soil sensors, building sensors can prompt and help manage exterior maintenance. Rather than waiting till paint flakes or stonework cracks, sensors can help predict the best time for maintenance or whether exterior painting is required, the technology can be used to select the correct paint or waterproofing and, when linked to advanced weather forecasting when the best time to carry the maintenance is. AI could well mean there are no more second guesses.

As technology and the collection once impossible to obtain information improves thus grounds maintenance improves. Time and labour costs are reduced, and grounds and buildings are better maintained.

Finally one of the most predicted forms of automation has to be lawnmowing. Automated lawn mowing has been around for a while and has been in the imagination of fiction writers for decades with comedic, Heath Robinson automatic mowing using dogs and ropes. Today automated mowing solutions use both externally controlled mowers and AI to mow even the small lawn up to the finest of fairways. This is perhaps the most visible impact of technology on grounds maintenance, however, it is the small things that really make the changes.  As always with technology, it is what you cannot see that making the greatest improvements all round.