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Lighthouse | Don’t miss out on the digital revolution


The pace of technological change in recent years has been enough to make heads spin.

Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that one of the main forms of global communication would be the offshoots of Friends Reunited and MySpace. But social media – as we now know it – is used by governments, media outlets and charities alike. These social platforms have even changed the way we think about our politicians and the world around us.

It is not just communications where the productive and often disruptive power of new digital technology is being felt. British companies are creating robotic surgical tools while autonomous vehicles have gone from the realms of science fiction to the testing tracks in no time at all.

Civil engineers have not been left behind, integrating new digital technology into their everyday lives through tools such as building information modelling and digital twins.

The technological revolution can take unexpected directions but is moving at incredible pace. Civil engineers, along with all other professions, need to be equipped to handle that change and make sure that it creates positive outcomes.

This is why investigating the progress and developments in technology and particularly intelligent assets is so important. In 2017, the ICE’s asset management group published a guidance paper on intelligent assets in which Sir John Armitt said that infrastructure sensing is becoming simpler, cheaper, and more versatile. Data can now be readily collected, analysed in real time and compared across assets, companies and countries.

We are rapidly moving toward a world in which rail networks will detect their own degradation, and tunnels will record conditions, communicate with trains and advise on maintenance.

This year, the President’s theme engages directly with the important developments in technology and the implications they have for improving the lives of millions around the world.   

And the ICE is doing all it can to keep abreast of the latest developments. The Institution has been undertaking a series of workshops assessing the readiness of the infrastructure sector for artificial intelligence. Most recently, in conjunction with the Alan Turing Institute, it brought together data scientists and built environment professionals to explore how artificial intelligence can enhance existing infrastructure.

On September 25, ICE will host the Shaping a Digital World Conference bringing together asset owners, consultants, contractors, academics and technology providers to debate the challenges associated with the digital transformation of infrastructure.

The benefits of technology and intelligent assets are boundless. It is important to make sure that we understand how they will affect work process, asset management and most importantly, the lives of the millions of people who use the infrastructure that is created by embracing these new technologies.

At times it can feel intimidating to think about the pace of change and it can often feel like progress is happening somewhere else or to someone else. However, the reality of this newest technological revolution is that it is happening everywhere, to everyone, and it is happening now.

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