Hugo Cheuk is the COO and Co-Founder at viAct. By virtue of his interest in innovations, he graduated as a building engineer with a master’s degree in business administration. Before kicking off his AI journey, he grabbed more than 10 years of experience in corporate strategies, brand management and business development. As a serial entrepreneur, Hugo has worked in listed company and MNCs. The multitalented all-rounder founder is currently looking after the operation and strategy for viAct. Hugo’s vision behind inception of viAct was to build a safer built environment. In congruence with his vision, Hugo’s dream is to drive viAct to become world’s most renowned AI company specialized in AEC sector and save lives of workers while working in high risk working environments. His moto in life and business is “Everyone should reach home safely from their workplaces, no matter for whoever and wherever they have worked!”
Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Hugo shared his insights on how AI is revolutionizing the construction industry, his role as the Co-Founder & COO at viAct, success mantra, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
In what ways is AI revolutionizing the construction industry?
The construction industry, though ranked as the world’s second largest sector after finance, remains prominently reliant on labour-intensive practices and human involvement. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not a novel concept, its fundamental principle of offering data-focused solutions driven by machine-based decision-making is profoundly challenging the established norms of traditional construction methodologies. Consequently, the increasing integration of human-robot interactions within construction sites is becoming increasingly apparent, with computer systems autonomously managing decision-making processes and on-site operations, thereby diminishing the commanding authority typically attributed to a project manager’s directives.
According to you, what are the three most disruptive technologies that will be used in the future, especially in the construction industry?
viAct is a specialized entity catering specifically to the AEC industry, carefully delineated into three primary stages, namely: 1) design and planning, 2) production and construction, and 3) maintenance and operation. Within this sector, a plethora of emerging technologies are poised to make considerable inroads. From this vast array, I shall highlight three paramount contenders that possess the utmost significance in challenging the entrenched practices of the industry’s time-honoured legacy.
- Autonomous technology offers a direct remedy for the pressing concerns surrounding labour scarcity, human fallibility, and safety vulnerabilities within the industry. AI assumes a pivotal role in effecting a profound metamorphosis of the industry, transitioning it from mere digitalization to comprehensive automation. The maturation of generative AI holds the potential to disrupt established paradigms governing project design and optimize workflow dynamics, thus instigating a paradigm shift in the construction domain.
- The integration of ultra-fast data transmission technology has emerged as the linchpin for interconnecting an expansive array of data sources. However, the challenges posed by extreme and remote environments have impeded the seamless adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) and AI technologies. Despite their immense potential, the true extent of AI and IoT capabilities remains shrouded, awaiting full disclosure.
- As data continues to proliferate across diverse networks in the comprehensive implementation of robotic systems, AI, and IoT devices to drive automation, the prevailing trend is a heightened emphasis on data encryption technology and an augmented awareness regarding the perils of cyber-attacks. This growing recognition underscores the imperative to fortify security protocols governing the intricate flow of information, safeguarding against potential vulnerabilities that arise from extensive interconnectivity of these advanced technological frameworks.
What has been your biggest learning as a Chief Operating Officer over the last 12 months?
Cash, Cash & Cash! I believe, in this post-COVID and fundraising winter era, for every startup founders, the paramount importance of maintaining a sustainable cash flow cannot be overstated. In the past twelve months, startup fundraising activities have plummeted precipitously, surpassing a significant 100% reduction compared to previous years. The conventional paradigm of unbridled expenditure to propel growth no longer holds sway as the guiding principle for startups. Fortunately, our operational philosophy embodies the intrinsic value of cultivating a positive cash flow, which holds an equivalent importance to fostering the incessant advancement of business growth.
Hugo, please tell us about yourself and your background. How did you get into the construction technology space?
viAct’s inception can be traced back to a poignant real-life anecdote that deeply affected me. During my tenure with a general contractor, I bore witness to a tragic incident involving the untimely demise of a subcontractor. The poignant nature of the situation was compounded by the fact that I engaged in daily conversations with the said subcontractor’s boss, who sat in close proximity to me. The harrowing news of his demise reached me one morning at the site office; it was revealed that he had tragically fallen from a considerable height from a lift shaft after the conclusion of site operations.
Having graduated in Building Engineering and accumulated several years of industry experience following my academic pursuits, I have operated my own design and build a company before setting up viAct.
However, this sombre incident served as a catalyst, propelling me towards an exploration of the utilization of AI to prevent such fatalities and safeguard the lives of workers. AI, with its capacity for incessant site monitoring without the need for human intervention, emerged as the transformative technology capable of mitigating similar risks. Had such a system been available at the time, the AI could have alerted the subcontractor’s boss, potentially averting the tragedy altogether, thus enabling him to continue contributing to the industry and sparing his family the heart-wrenching loss of a loved one.
Please brief us about viAct. What is the mission and vision of the company?
viAct is a company driven by a dual mission to combine vision and action. The name itself reflects the core values and aspirations of the organization. The first aspect of the vision pertains to the advanced technology of computer vision that viAct develops and believes in. This technology harnesses the power of AI to enable machines to understand and interpret visual data, thereby revolutionizing various industries and domains.
The second aspect of the vision embodies a proactive and results-oriented approach. viAct aims to go beyond mere conceptualization and actively implement practical solutions that create tangible impact. The company is dedicated to translating innovative ideas into actionable strategies and products that drive positive change.
Overall, the vision and mission of viAct converge in their pursuit of leveraging cutting-edge technology, particularly computer vision, to empower industries and organizations with transformative tools and insights. By combining visionary thinking with decisive action, viAct aims to propel the world towards a future marked by enhanced efficiency, safety, and sustainability.
Could you elaborate a bit more on your role as the Co-Founder & COO at viAct? And what inspires you about this role?
Several years ago, my esteemed co-founder, Gary Ng, and I embarked on the establishment of viAct. Our bond is deeply rooted in a profound friendship that blossomed during our university days, where we demonstrated a remarkable alignment of minds and shared ideals. While we bear the designations of work titles, these labels serve primarily as external formalities, as internally, the demarcation of roles is occasionally less defined. My professional journey, marked by a multidisciplinary background, has equipped me with a diverse skill set encompassing high-level strategic planning, business development, and marketing acumen. As a result, my current endeavours within viAct predominantly revolve around these realms, where my focus seamlessly converges.
What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?
The auspicious juncture, as it stands, has not yet materialized, I think. Haha! Frankly, I had never given much thought to it since embarking upon my professional journey. Nevertheless, without a shadow of doubt, the present moment represents the pinnacle of my career achievements, evoking a profound sense of elation. I am unequivocally proud of the collective efforts of my team, comprising a dynamic assemblage of multicultural, young professionals. Despite grappling with an indeterminate and volatile market landscape, each individual exhibits an unwavering dedication, diligently confronting novel challenges with unwavering resolve, day in and day out.
What’s the best advice you have received in your career?
The best advisor in my life has perpetually been my mother, whose profound influence transcends her complete comprehension of my professional pursuits. From an early age, she imparted a timeless wisdom upon me, emphasizing the paramount importance of treating individuals with utmost kindness and compassion within the context of our human-centric existence. This enduring philosophy has manifested itself in every facet of my endeavours, compelling me to consistently extend goodwill to customers, employees, and all stakeholders alike. While it is an unfortunate reality that individuals may occasionally exploit or harbour personal animosity, I remain steadfast in my conviction that such fleeting encounters bear little significance in the grand tapestry of a lifelong journey. Embracing the principle of treating people well has become the guiding principle anchoring my entire career trajectory, endowing me with a sense of tranquillity that permeates my nightly repose.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
The mere act of engaging in specific endeavours to spur self-motivation holds little sway over my inner drive, as it is the market itself that serves as an incessant source of inspiration. Each day, my unwavering curiosity is fuelled by the profound desire to explore novel avenues wherein viAct can be seamlessly applied, with the overarching objective of enhancing jobsite safety. This pursuit has transcended a mere professional ambition, metamorphosing into a personal mission to actively empathize with our clients, diligently discerning their pain points and subsequently introducing our product as a means to effectively monitor risk-prone areas. The unyielding aspiration to cultivate an environment devoid of hazards provides an intrinsic motivation that propels us to innovate ceaselessly, day in and day out.
What mantra do you live by?
As a Co-founder and COO of an AI company dedicated to fostering safer, more efficient, and sustainable workplaces, the mantra by which I live is rooted in the pursuit of transformative impact. Guided by an unwavering commitment to excellence, I strive to harness the power of technological innovation to revolutionize work environments. I firmly believe that our collective success lies in our ability to integrate cutting-edge AI solutions that not only enhance productivity but also prioritize the well-being and safety of every individual within the workplace. With a resolute focus on creating a harmonious convergence of human capabilities and advanced technologies, I navigate the intricate landscape of operations with a steadfast resolve to forge a future that is both socially responsible and economically prosperous.
What advice would you offer others looking to build their career in technology?
To me, the realm of technology transcends the boundaries of a mere industry or career path; rather, it represents a paradigmatic shift in problem-solving and an unceasing drive to surpass the status quo. Regardless of its nomenclature, individuals immersed in this sector must cultivate an unwavering conviction in their endeavours and beliefs. The journey embarked upon is oftentimes solitary and arduous; yet fuelled by an unwavering resolve, one can continue to wear a smile even in the face of immense adversity. With conviction as the guiding force, one can transcend personal ego, make self-sacrifices to forge ahead, and continuously challenge every preconceived notion to achieve even greater excellence. The singular and ultimate objective remains crystal clear: to construct a solution that embodies an unwavering belief in one’s ability to address a specific problem, surpassing any competitor in the pursuit of that noble goal.