As I navigated a horribly congested M1 motorway last week while trying to gather family members to catch a flight from an under-construction Luton Airport, the UK’s smart infrastructure future seemed quite some way away.
All my own fault of course. I had the technology to tell me that Friday traffic would be a nightmare; that getting a train would be quicker; that I should have left home earlier! Fortunately, Easyjet’s digital ticketing and check-in was pretty fool-proof and, to be fair, once Luton Airport’s upgrade is complete, I’m sure that their carparking and bus services will be a whole lot more integrated.
But it did underline for me how far we have still to go when it comes to aligning the digitally enabled, smart city aspiration to the blundering reality of real customers like me.
Gazing across the geospatial landscape of exponential advances in digital technology, design modelling, artificial intelligence and data analysis it is hard to not be excited by the future possibilities offered to design professionals.
Yet as my travel adventures highlighted, the challenge facing modern built environment professionals is less one of tech, more one of understanding how to create solutions that can be embraced today to actually benefit people and communities.
Of course, it is not just about boosting transport efficiency. As digital technologies rapidly converge with urban and transport planning we have the opportunity to rethink the design and operation of our entire urban environments.
At our fingertips is design revolution – a vast new opportunity to improve life in our increasingly crowded cities using technology and a growing range of sensors and monitoring devices built into infrastructure assets. We can gather and mobilise data to radically improve the way that we live, work and travel in our cities.
As we will hear at the forthcoming GeoBusiness show seminar “Geospatial solutions to drive a smart cities revolution”, the geospatial sector stands ready to lead and drive this change. Featuring a keynote from the newly created Centre for Digital Built Britain, the session will underline the UK government’s commitment to leading change and discuss the future challenges of electric, driverless and ownerless vehicles, on-demand public transport systems, automated deliveries and refuse collection and localised power generation systems
The session will explore the impact of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, drones, augmented and virtual reality on the development of our built environment. With a range of key speaker, the session will delve into the realities and pace at which the transformation will take place across the nation.
It’s a very exciting future and the size of the prize of huge. The National Infrastructure Commission’s recent report Data for the Public Good estimates that data already contributes £50bn a year to the UK economy and it predicts that artificial intelligence could save each household £2300 annually by 2030.
So for geospatial professionals the moment for change has arrived. It is a moment to lead the smart cities revolution for modern built environment professions as they work with customers, communities and society at large to embrace a new digitally enhanced design landscape.
Antony Oliver, Editorial Consultant and Infrastructure Specialist