What lies at the core of Smart Infrastructure is connectivity.

When you stop and think, you realize that infrastructure, at its core, is undoubtedly about connectivity.

Infrastructure enables people and what they need, so as to function and thrive, to provide the structures to get them from place to place, to provide sustaining residence and prospects.

If we make this infrastructure “smart,” what will that give us?

“Smart” as a concept is not just supplying the connectivity but also delivering the sense-making capability from what it offers, through the data provided. We can model, use big data analytics, apply analysis and data mine, to make this set of connections, to improve our intelligence.

As we build the smart infrastructure, we are developing intelligent infrastructure; where we learn, improve decisions, and advance our abilities to connect and improve the essential functions that infrastructure offers. ‘Smart’ can potentially connect all the parts of the city.

Infrastructure sets about to provide all these essentials to allow us to function and have a higher chance of growing in our ways of living. We not only recognize that infrastructure is the “hard” physical asset we can touch; it is also integral to the “softer” aspects, places where we can enjoy community spaces, parks and meeting areas, where we can connect and share.

Infrastructure provides the environment for us to give new ‘form and function’ as it offers a digital component that provides us with knowledge and understanding, to improve on what is already in place.

The connections within infrastructure today are making us smarter.

We are fusing the physical with the digital to create Smart Infrastructure. Smartness is not just installing digital and physical interfaces; it is about how we set about to understand and use it in data and yield.

The digital infrastructure is made up of what we own or have placed around us. In the use of our devices, in the “apps” we can use and the use of multiple sensors that are embedded in the physical assets all around us, we can feed networks with “raw data” connected up into the internet of things (IoT). This data we are sharing is becoming smarter by all these connections by the information it is providing. The better the platform and the analytics, we can explore the potential value to improve on what we have and build into new smart infrastructure solutions.

Our transport, energy, water, telecommunications, and waste infrastructures are under increasing strain to cope with the continued influx of more people moving to the city. At current estimates, 68% of the global population by 2025 will be living in a city. The Infrastructure within Cities has a significant job to cope with this sort of influx. Connecting up the usage, the flows, and physical movements through having that data will enable planning to be closer to real-time and be “modeled” to smooth out peaks and improve the reliability and service.

Managing all that is old and aged, we need to fuse it with the new

Many of our cities today have aging infrastructure, showing chronic problems of breaking down. Many of our existing buildings were constructed years ago, even centuries ago and lacked the levels of sustained investment they needed.

Today we are facing up to this lack of continuous investment. We will continue to build new assets, but it is the extension of existing infrastructure assets that need increased attention so they can be updated and connected.

We need to push designs to increase the value more out of the current operating asset base as so often they can’t be replaced as many of our buildings offer a real legacy and identification with a specific city, that has become iconic or just essential.

Smart technologies can help us monitor conditions, make us more aware by anticipating when an item needs servicing or maintenance, focusing more on preventing failure. Data, provided through new technology like sensors on equipment deployed can collect, inform and manage demand, their peaks and surges to offer a new “lease of life” to existing assets by managing them more thoughtfully.

Today we can design solutions within any new infrastructure through having a “digital twin” so they are better planned, conceptualized, and designed, more “upfront,” before they are even built and then used to make scenario’s of “what if?” and explore concepts that build on the existing infrastructure to see how they integrate and function.

We are exploring new ideas through innovation and technology solutions that are helping us to extend and improve our environments and benefit all existing and future infrastructures. Technology is opening our minds and our cities, to new possibilities and opportunities, far more difficult without becoming a connected ‘smart’ city.

We are becoming better informed about the city’s performance and that is good for those living and working in the city as it can offer improvements to improve our lives.

The Expected Value of Smart Infrastructure

Smart infrastructure can significantly improve intelligence from all parts of a city. Data can improve decisions in real-time, in the daily life of a city and help form the digital backbone to plan out the future based on this collected, dynamic data. We can predict, take action, and manage in “real-time” from the flow of data and how we visualize the movement of people, goods and essential services.

As we enhance both our physical and digital understanding of smart infrastructure, we achieve increasing value. We are consciously building value into our infrastructure, in customer or citizen awareness and appreciation, in informing value on where it makes the connections and increases the integration, for all involved in city life to make their own “smarter” decisions.

The knowledge comes in knowing about traffic, air quality, where repairs or events can disrupt our daily routine, or prove us tools to plan accordingly and save us time and lost productivity. Having these insights makes us more aware and ready to anticipate and take proactive action

This value can build each time we invest in the infrastructure process and design in its use, operations, maintenance, planning, and feasibility. We can achieve the increased realization of design and execution from technology, in any assembly or building, in logistics or movements, and through a greater understanding of changes in materials used in smart infrastructure designs, in the manufacture and application into intelligent solutions. Technology and innovation are pushing out the boundaries of Smart Infrastructure.

Smart Infrastructure raises expectations as it can provide us growing intelligence and reliability

Smart Infrastructure is a rapidly growing new industry, requiring new skills and replacing old ones. Estimates suggest we have $50 trillion of mature infrastructure to be retrofitted in the coming years.

A citizen expects the essential services from our infrastructure, like consistent energy and water to connect their homes and businesses. The infrastructure gives us the physical assets as well as the digital backbone of communications, so distance and connections are not barriers anymore to “conduct and undergo” our daily lives.  Those living in our cities expect the solutions offered will deliver on the promise of better outcomes and a better quality of life for them as citizens.

Smart infrastructure can offer our cities so much. Smart Infrastructure brings together many of the connections we need to improve the functioning of a city, of the assets or physical infrastructure that is necessary to provide us the services we expect and allow us to function economically, effectively and increasingly in a connected society, that is increasingly dependent on each other.

As our understanding grows on how to build sustaining cities, there are so many future possibilities known or still to be discovered. Embracing  Smart Infrastructure can create a more reliable and sustainable place to work and live in, one that allows us more moments to enjoy our precious time they way we want too.

Author: @paul4innovating

A transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, and digitalization for the energy and IIoT systems

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