By Jessica Dickers, Editor, Infrastructure magazine

The last few months have seen a dramatic change in how we live, work and move around our cities due to the pandemic. Some states like Victoria are still facing strict lockdowns, while other states have started to open things back up. While there is a lot of uncertainty, now is the time to start exploring what the industry will look like post-COVID.

To help provide some answers to this big issue, we gathered the infrastructure industry’s leading experts to explore their predictions at the Future of Infrastructure Virtual Conference

Speakers delved deep into issues including the rise of cloud-based infrastructure; using the economic rebuild to make assets more sustainable; how mobility and transport usage will change, and what the sector can do to meet this new demand; as well as what nation rebuilding will look like post-COVID and the new waves of innovation for the sector. 

This is the first in a series of articles looking at the key takeaways from the event. 

We are starting with Frank Zeichner, CEO, Internet of Things Alliance Australia (IoTAA), who spoke about the Internet of Things (IoT), digital infrastructure and what’s needed for Australian IoT infrastructure.

IoT by International Standards Organisation/IEC definition is “an infrastructure of interconnected objects, people, systems and information resources together with intelligent services to allow them to process information of the physical and virtual world and react”.

Frank said he and IoTAA work from the premise that data will be the tool that we will use to make better decisions, and that while the internet had a dramatic effect on the way businesses ran when it first emerged, the Internet of Things will have an even bigger impact. 

“We’re collecting some of the information that allows us to start making faster decisions about how we might optimise services, how we might better use our assets, how we might provide warnings for safety, for example. So the Internet of Things is a systemic thing, and it’s about collecting, transforming and sharing data,” he said.

“It’s also about gaining insights and information about that data. Then feeding that back to actually process business change is the ultimate goal.”

When looking at how different Australian sectors ranked in a McKinsey Australia Industry Digitisation Index, the level of digitisation for manufacturing, mining, utilities, construction, transport and agriculture is patchy at best. This is where Frank sees a massive opportunity. 

So what’s needed for Australian IoT Infrastructure?

According to Frank, the things that are needed are: 

A culture and understanding of using and sharing data responsibly and for good outcomes

  • Data sharing frameworks
  • Consumer Data Rights
  • Transparency in use versus data required

Investment in “hard infrastructure” that requires data on utilisation, wear, maintenance etc.

  • Don’t built the ‘hard’ without the ‘soft’ (have data collecting and sharing built in)
  • Requirement to share

On this point, Frank says, “We need to build roads, rail, ports and airports. My view is that we shouldn’t be building those without the soft as well. The data collecting and sharing requirements need to be built into that infrastructure, which builds our IoT national infrastructure.”

Security by design

  • Needs to be accredited (having something like a security tick to know it’s “roadworthy”)

Nationwide connectivity – for high and low bandwidth

  • Need to enable greater incentives for regional/rural coverage

We need recognised data repositories for public good and industry enablement

  • Local
  • Applying the intelligence in Australia

So where should the infrastructure and construction industry start on their digital and IoT journey?

Frank says the first thing to do is to find people who are doing it. 

“Talk to others in your industry who are already doing it. In the construction industry, I’d say look for those who are standouts and learn first.” 

Watch Frank’s full presentation on-demand here.

The Future of Infrastructure Virtual Conference will return on 30 September as part of the Critical Infrastructure Summit. For more information or to register for the Summit, click here.

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