In the United States, critical city, state and federal infrastructure is falling behind. While heavy investment, planning and development have gone into the U.S. infrastructure system, much of it is not keeping up with the pace of new technology, and some of it hasn’t had a proper update in decades, instead just adding new systems onto old systems. This can be allotted to a combination of liability structures in the U.S., difficulty in enabling interconnection between infrastructure in different jurisdictions, worry over introducing large-scale security risks and an attempt to mitigate that risk.
There is interest in upgrading city systems to be more efficient, to be more in line with real-time demand and to move into the 21st century, but it’s going to take work. It’s also going to take new technology.
Distributed ledger technology (DLT), when applied correctly, can do for a city’s infrastructure what existing technologies cannot. Where existing technologies are heavy, requiring expensive servers and a larger energy draw, distributed ledger technology is light and can be implemented on individual nodes (code environments) and directly onto things like traffic light sensors. It also allows for more oversight from a privacy perspective. The ability to bring distributed ledger technology into lightweight frameworks allows for more security and upgrades to critical infrastructure.
Benefits of smart infrastructure
The biggest impact of smart infrastructure is that it enables local governments to focus on the reason they’re there in the first place; to increase the quality of life of the local residents, bring stability and culture to local businesses, and create a welcoming and frictionless environment for tourists or visitors. Governments can create stability, streamline sources of revenue, and integrate a frictionless operational environment for people and organizations in their jurisdiction.
Consider transportation infrastructure. A lot of revenue in cities and states comes from things like tolls and roadside parking, and of course taxes. States control the highways, interstates, and tolling infrastructure commonly through collaboration with service providers. Cities control the local roadside and passthrough streets and the revenue accrued through parking solutions. With the pandemic, these resources have dried up due to people staying at home, social distancing, using less public transit and working remotely.
This now offers an opportunity for an expanded example of the desire to understand the transportation flow. If cities had more real time insights into this, they’d be able to understand the demand and have a more fluidly flowing traffic condition. This can be done through new technologies such as what are seen deployed in Singapore like green link determinings systems, parking guidance systems, and expressway monitoring systems allowing for enhanced traffic awareness and guidance.
There are also keen ways to incentivize traffic guidance while bringing stability to local small and medium businesses throughout cities such as using parking guidance systems to enable local businesses to offer discounts for parking nearby.
An open transportation grid (in the sense of data points gathered for streamlining and managing) can create smoother traffic patterns in cities with smaller road grids. Transportation centers could communicate with delivery services, understanding their routes and setting up parking reservation windows. Traffic flow could be managed so that delivery services are able to get in and out without causing back-ups on tight, busy roads.
Another offering of smart infrastructure can be seen with cross border connections for transportation of goods and services. The ownership of infrastructure in the U.S. is highly fragmented; with cities owning local and neighborhood roadsides, and states owning highways and interstates. This also means that the infrastructure supporting this is highly distributed, because each entity has to have it’s own systems in place to support their infrastructure, typically using different solutions, services and data structures.