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Long live the digital revolution. Nabil Abou-Rahme

The march of technology has touched almost every aspect of our lives. It’s time for infrastructure to catch up.

With smart phones in our pockets, we have access to data and services that were undreamed of a generation ago. In manufacturing and increasingly in the professions, humans stand side by side with machines in the workplace.

‘Smart infrastructure’ is about enhancing physical infrastructure with digital technology. It holds the potential to meet the mounting challenges from population growth, greater consumer expectations, tighter budgets and finite natural resources. And it can assist with pressing issues such as carbon reduction, constrained service capacity, service reliability and operational resilience.

If you scan through the hype about the latest smart technology, there’s one descriptor you won’t read very often. 'Appropriate'. Not exactly sexy, is it? Where’s the glitz of life-altering innovation? Where’s the revolutionary vision of the future?

In too many cases, solutions are developed simply because they can be, and not to solve specific problems. “I think, therefore I app.” But when you work with infrastructure, 'appropriate' gets the pulse racing quicker than the latest here-today-gone-tomorrow gadgetry and start-ups that promise plenty, and then disappoint. Consultancy and systems should help infrastructure clients to deliver basic needs and more advanced services to their end users – commuters, homeowners, businesses, taxpayers – you and me.

But smart infrastructure also demands that consultancy and systems can accommodate, and even enable, bottom-up innovation. Customers and third party players have an increasingly important role to play in problem-solving and manipulating data to add value, for themselves, infrastructure owners, and operators alike.

Simply, wherever the solutions come from, 'appropriate' involves doing the real stuff well.

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