The Journey to Intelligent Infrastructure

By Jeff Connolly

28 August 2015

Victoria’s transport infrastructure faces a variety of challenges, as is the case for just about every major city in Australia. This week, I had the opportunity to address a Victorian Transport Forum hosted by CEDA (the Committee for Economic Development of Australia) and present an overview of what we see as the journey to intelligent infrastructure.

What we’ve been seeing in the industrial space is a real movement towards investing in digitalisation and automation technologies to try to gain a competitive advantage and prepare for the fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0. In fact, with globalisation this is a necessity for many manufacturers if they want to stay in business. Increased competition is the real driving force. However, we are also starting to see this with infrastructure as major infrastructure also needs to be run like a business. That means modernising existing infrastructure to be more efficient and creating new infrastructure that can cope with the increasing demands over the coming decades. This can be done through existing and proven automation and digitalisation technology. 

To provide some context, keep in mind that between now and 2030, at least $50 trillion will need to be spent globally on infrastructure development. What’s more, in only 15 years’ time it is estimated that almost 60 per cent of humanity will live in urban centres (and that figure is projected to reach 70 per cent, equal to the entire population of the earth today, by 2050).

To cope with the reality of mass urbanisation, infrastructure solutions of the future must integrate energy generation and distribution, intelligent buildings, and all modes of transport. This calls for a more intelligent approach to infrastructure, and requires that we get more out of our existing infrastructure, and make the most out of what we build in the future.

While some cities are further along the evolution trajectory than others, the goal should be to have a fully integrated intelligent infrastructure system, where command and control centres integrate transport, water, gas and electricity networks.

There are concrete, measurable benefits our cities can gain from investing in intelligent infrastructure solutions. With our global operations in 190 countries we are proudly supplying technologies that are helping create intelligent infrastructure. Through projects around the world, Siemens has helped deliver 20-30% capacity increases with driverless trains; savings of up to 30% on rolling stock lifecycle costs; approximately 20% increase in city traffic speed; and 30% energy savings in road and rail.

In Australia we can also point to successful projects such as the MCG where a recent technology modernisation program is saving at least 17% on utility costs and 19% on CO2 emissions. The intelligence is a building management system that connects to the events programming system and everything is fully automated to eliminate waste. Australia’s newest windfarm, Snowtown II, is a great example of intelligent energy infrastructure where 800 sensors continuously capture data and clever analytics converts that data to smart data to optimise the performance of each turbine in real time. Similar opportunities for intelligent transport exist and are being implemented around the world, with good reason.

A 2014 study of 35 cities conducted by London-based consulting firm Credo found that Melbourne stands to gain $1.1B per annum of economic opportunity by 2030 through upgrading transportation networks. Again there are real examples of cities around the world reaping the benefits of investment in intelligent transport infrastructure. They all focus on optimising throughput, guaranteed availability and enhanced passenger experience by combining various elements of electrification, automation and digitalisation. Siemens technology is supporting all of these:

  • Paris Metro: Driverless Metro Line 1 in Paris is increasing the capacity of the line by ~70,000 passengers every day.
  • The London Crossrail will significantly increase the throughput in the inner city – halving travel time for many commuters. An additional 1.5m people will be able to access central London in less than 45 minutes.
  • Metro Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The Riyadh Driverless metro trains turnkey projects will increase capacity by 50% and generate 15% energy savings.
  • U-Banh Nuremberg: Germany's first driverless mass-transit train line is the first in the world for the step by step migration of a conventional metro system to a driverless system. The system is unique because it mixes human-driven and computer-controlled trains on the same track. This had previously been seen as too risky, although it is the best way forward for cities which can only afford gradual improvements to their existing train services. The new system is able to transport up to 29,500 passengers per hour and to substantially shorten the intervals between trains.  

Cities are the engines for future growth, generating 80 per cent of global economic output. To attract business investments, cities need to compete against each other just like any other business. One of the most critical competitive advantages to a city is its infrastructure.

Investing in technologies which enable either existing assets or new assets to become intelligent transport infrastructure ultimately means less congestion, reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as increased capacity.

This in turn provides economic stimulus including more and better jobs, and ultimately better lifestyles. These decisions are beyond the lifecycles of individual government terms and so need long term visionary decisions that are supported regardless of which government is in power.

I encourage all Australian governments who are facing the challenges of upgrading and investing in new infrastructure to make sure the technology solutions at least match the level of technology that is going into other modern infrastructure around the world and is ready on the journey to intelligent infrastructure.   

Jeff Connolly is CEO & Managing Director of Siemens Ltd. This post was first published on LinkedIn.