The need for more efficient and livable cities in Australia has led to the birth of SMART infrastructure – the integration of infrastructure assets with enabling technologies and big data analytics.
With the impending arrival of fifth-generation broadband (5G) and a proliferation of SMART technologies emerging, the opportunity for developing SMART infrastructure is increasing; and governments around the world are now investing heavily in this space.
Previous applications in Australia such as automatic toll collection, tunnel and bridge monitoring and smart energy distribution have proven to be highly beneficial – improving maintenance costs, safety and service delivery across transport and energy networks.
But as Nick Abrahams of Norton Rose Fulbright describes, it is not always easy to determine return on investment (ROI) with SMART infrastructure initiatives, leaving uncertainty about where to best channel future investment.
Nick, who is due to present at the AFR National Infrastructure Summit in June 2018, outlines some of his concerns about the new wave of technological disruption we are about to experience.
“A key challenge can be finding the use cases for SMART infrastructure”, he says. “We know we have masses amounts of data, but how do we determine which initiatives will deliver real ROI and help us achieve sustainable urban growth?”.
With technology evolving at the rate it is, Nick also acknowledges that it is difficult to imagine what kind of world we are preparing for.
“It’s almost like a moving target”, he says. “There is currently a great deal of investment going into SMART energy technology, but simultaneously, energy providers are having to prepare for the reality that they may not be able to charge for energy in the future”.
Overseas success stories can however provide a guiding light.
Nick describes how nations such as China and Singapore are paving the way for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in infrastructure service delivery.
“China is completely outshining the rest of the world in AI research and implementation”, he says. “In some cities they are aiming for 80% autonomous vehicle traffic by 2020. Singapore are also investing heavily into smart flood notifications and have developed some world-leading solutions”.
Nick will reflect on some of the global success stories of SMART infrastructure and explore further opportunities for Australia, at the AFR National Infrastructure Summit – to be held 4-5 June at the Sofitel Wentworth Sydney.