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Engineering people to infrastructure 'is the future'

Engineers could soon be moulding people’s habits to existing infrastructure rather than the other way round, a key figure has predicted.

Linden Stephens, associate technical director at Hyder Consulting, said the march of both technology and global warming could lead to major changes in the nature of civil engineering.

The local government in Zurich has committed to bringing down the average inhabitant’s energy use from 5,000 watts per day to 2,000 by 2050.

Stephens said this would only be possible on a large scale by using sensors and modern communication tools to make better use of existing infrastructure.

“For example, Victoria station in London keeps getting more people arriving for work in the morning - so it could build bigger platforms,” he told NCE. “But with two-way communications we can ask people to stagger their start times.

“Standby generators can be run at peak times instead of sitting idle until a blackout.

“The vision requires governments to understand the way we can move forward. It requires citizens to share data with utilities; and vice versa.”

Engineers would have a major role to play in identifying applications and sensors to make the system work, Stephens said.

“I see the future of engineering moving from computer-aided drafted to computer-aided engineering.

“This is being deployed by universities already – there is not one graduate that does not understand IP, the protocol used in smart phones and TVs.” 

Do you agree with Stephens’ vision of the future of engineering? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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