Infrastructure is the lifeline connecting people, facilitating global trade and acting as a pillar of economic success. Asia alone will require US$30 trillion of infrastructure investment between 2016–2030 as per an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. Increasing urbanisation and economic growth will entail upgrading existing and creating new infrastructure assets. Technology can be a great enabler in meeting our infrastructure needs better. With the rise of a digital-powered Industry 4.0 revolution, the new infrastructure design can be future-proof while existing infrastructure utilisation and operations can be optimised along with enhancing user experience.
A smart infrastructure is flexible to user needs, can adapt to the changing demand profile and aims at lowering the overall “cost of service” throughout the asset lifecycle predominantly using technology solutions. It entails mapping the business objectives, selecting the right technology tools and having a holistic implementation framework.
Smart infrastructure can help in the following ways:
Potential benefits are quite apparent but are not necessarily easy to quantify given the limited empirical evidence. This has also been highlighted as one of the biggest challenges hindering adoption of technologies by asset owners based on a 2020 Built Environment Infrastructure sector survey conducted by KPMG in Singapore.
Futuristic technology implementations have immense potential but need to be supported comprehensively by the enablers as follows:
Technology will not succeed for an asset if it is not looked at holistically from an organisational perspective. For example, a large utilities player in Southeast Asia has implemented an organisation-wide ERP system but there is limited use because it has not captured the current “process on the ground” adequately in system design. When technology implementations are planned for infrastructure assets, it is important to look at it from a perspective of:
Based on the feedback received from multiple infrastructure stakeholders, the following steps can help effectively implement smart infrastructure:
It is imperative that the infrastructure sector not only benefits but uses the emerging new technology platform to leapfrog into a new era of seamless service delivery. While technology solutions are fast becoming affordable and ubiquitous, we should not discount the significant organisational resources necessary for a successful rollout. Technology can help extract more value from existing assets while offering a more cost-efficient delivery of new projects. The time is ripe for infrastructure asset owners and managers to leverage technology for building a sustainable and smart future.