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Industry cites wireless technologies as central to the future of infrastructure services

Wireless networks, sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) are the technologies that will impact most on how infrastructure services are delivered up until 2020, industry experts have said.12 Oct 2017

The views of 300 senior executives spread across the UK, Asia Pacific and EMEA, from the infrastructure and technology sectors and also direct equity investors, have been highlighted in a new report on the evolution of 'infratech' by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. Additional in-depth interviews were conducted for the report, along with a roundtable discussion in the UK with senior experts and executives.

'Infratech' is the deployment or integration of digital technologies with physical infrastructure, such as airports, buildings, roads and railways, to deliver efficient, connected, resilient and agile assets. The combination of physical and digital infrastructure designs and produces assets that respond intelligently, or inform and direct their own maintenance, use and delivery. As a result it drives out benefits for the end user in terms of efficiency, productivity and a better overall user experience.

According to the report, which has been produced in partnership with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and techUK, 80% of the executives surveyed said wireless networks, such as mobile, internet of things, small cells and mesh networks, would have "the most significant impact on the delivery of infrastructure services in the next three years".

Just 40% of the respondents said wireless had been one of the technologies to have the biggest impact in the market in the past three years.

Behind wireless networks, the executives surveyed cited sensors (58%) and machine learning and artificial intelligence (37%) the most as the technologies likely to have the most significant impact on infrastructure services in the near future.

"When viewed together, these statistics suggest that the technology priorities for infratech are those that facilitate the collection and analysis of data about infrastructure assets, and tools to automate the response to that data," said technology and telecoms expert Daryl Cox of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com..

"Sensors make it possible to do everything from measuring stress levels in concrete structures, to counting and classifying fast-moving vehicles on smart motorways," the report said. "Machine learning and AI underpin developments that range from predictive maintenance to autonomous operation on metro systems."

According to the report, fixed line communications networks are predicted to have a decreased impact over time, while cloud-based solutions are now seen as "an incumbent technology" in the infrastructure services market, where "its deployment in future projects is taken for granted".

Cox said that "these results do not undermine the critical importance of fibre and cloud to infratech; wireless technologies require fibre networks for backhaul and data analytics tools and data lakes are typically built on cloud infrastructure".

This is part of a series exploring the opportunities and challenges of infratech, the integration of technology into infrastructure. You can read more in our special report or request an exclusive Pinsent Masons research report

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