Smart infrastructure

Get ready for a new buzzword. I understood the idea of the “smart grid,” but take that a step further and you end up with smart infrastructure. The New York Times has the goods.

A similar pattern is emerging today, experts say, for what is being called smart infrastructure — more efficient and environmentally friendlier systems for managing, among other things, commuter traffic, food distribution, electric grids and waterways. This time, the crucial technological ingredients include low-cost sensors and clever software for analytics and visualization, as well as computing firepower.

Wireless sensors can now collect and transmit information from almost any object — for instance, roads, food crates, utility lines and water pipes. And the improved software helps interpret the huge flow of information, so raw data becomes useful knowledge to monitor and optimize transport and other complex systems. The efficiency payoff, experts say, should translate into big reductions in energy used, greenhouse gases emitted and natural resources consumed.

The implications are staggering. First, this sounds like a great business, and companies like IBM, Cisco and GE are all over this. I’m also guessing that storage companies like EMC have a bright future here as well.

More importantly, we’re entering a new era where waste and inefficiencies are no longer accepted. The culture has changed. Also, business has changed. In today’s world, the costs associated with waste cannot be ignored.

We have a down-payment on a new smart grid with the stimulus package passed earlier this year. Hopefully, the concept of smart infrastructure will influence the way the government spends money of all projects going forward. Now that we have an administration that believes in science, the prospects are much brighter.


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