As part of Infrastructure Week, one of the most compelling conversation topics was the future of infrastructure because to make it happen, the future really has to start being built today. If the trendiest topic today is the driverless car, what infrastructure has to be in place to make that work? If sensor technology is changing how we monitor everything from water to traffic, what will the infrastructure internet of things be able to replace? How can we plan for infrastructure that will lead to the future we want?
While we all know that America has their hands full with today’s problems, we also must be realists – planning 2025, 2040 and 2050’s infrastructure starts by stopping endless debating and starting to implement great ideas today. This was the key take-away from the one of the Infrastructure Week events hosted by AEM with Congressman Garret Graves (Infrastructure Week Congressional Co-Chair), Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Missouri, Ronald De Feo (CEO of Kennametal & Chair and AEM’s Infrastructure Vision 2050), Amanda Eversole (President of Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation), Steve Morrison (Amtrak Account Manager for Siemens Industry, Inc.), and Derek Woodgate (Chief Futurist at The Future’s Lab, Inc.).
Mayor James had a great example of getting future infrastructure to work with the new Kansas City Streetcar Project. When they were going to put in a streetcar, they didn’t stop there – they looked at what else could be done while work was being done. This included replacing aging water pipes and installing new fiber. They also implemented new, versatile technology along the route. A great example of this is the kiosks around streetcars that will be able to help citizens with everything from simple answers to reporting incidents. The kiosks have allowed Missouri to use the data collected to create phone apps and fight crime. The project ended up almost completely paying for itself and creating jobs since companies are willing to pay for the data. When we stop thinking of infrastructure as just one project, like a Streetcar, and start taking in the larger view of what can be accomplished and enhanced, we’ll transform our infrastructure and our cities by 2050.
Written with an assist by Infrastructure Week intern Nicole Erdelyi