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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

 

Joseph Ruxton

Smart infrastructure and its impact on urban resilience

Digital innovation is increasingly prevalent across infrastructure sectors such as energy, transport, water and buildings. Smart Infrastructure is a multitrillion-pound global opportunity and involves the combination of physical and digital infrastructure, predominantly to improve efficiency. Many digital solutions are being researched and deployed, including: IoT-connected sensors; BIM or GIS systems; digital twins; augmented reality; cloud data solutions; and rapid analytics using Big Data or artificial intelligence.

Urban resilience, the capacity of cities to survive, adapt and grow despite stresses and acute shocks, targets many emerging threats. These include natural hazards, climate change, cyber security and ageing assets. Smart infrastructure has a significant impact on resilient engineering solutions, with projects and operations increasingly needing to balance the priorities of productivity and resilience.

This study investigates the positive and negative impacts of smart infrastructure on urban resilience through interviews with 25 influential infrastructure consultants, contractors, clients, technologists and researchers. Data from these semi-structured interviews has been coded into themes using qualitative data analysis tools, thereby demonstrating the impacts of technologies on urban resilience. Through this analysis, ten key leverage points have emerged to maximise resilience including: terminology & scoping, organisational structuring, funding, risk management, interdependencies, scenario planning, security mindsets, contracts, as well as a focus on interdisciplinary working and asset management.

The findings from this study have been compiled into a simple framework, with the hope that companies can adopt this alongside their existing digitalisation and resilience agenda. This should enable transformative change across a broad range of infrastructure sectors, including those beyond the scope of this study.