Modern infrastructure must include analytics

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True infrastructure modernization must incorporate data and analytics.

Throughout its history, the United States has invested in infrastructure that leverages new technologies and helps society and its economy thrive. With the advent of trains in the early 1800s, four of the country’s five transcontinental railroads were built with assistance from the federal government. When cars replaced horses and buggies in the 1900s, the U.S. began funding the construction of highways, bridges and tunnels.  As travel by air became a reality, new runways and airports were established with assistance from the federal government. 

As new technologies emerge, citizens’ expectations of infrastructure are broadened. The classic notion of infrastructure as steel and concrete has expanded to include broadband, rapid and responsive software and data systems that facilitate daily living.  

In 2017, the Economist famously wrote “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” The article states, “The concept behind ‘data is the new oil’ is that just like oil, raw data isn’t valuable in and of itself, but, rather, the value is created when it is gathered completely and accurately, connected to other relevant data, and done so in a timely manner.” 

With encouraging signs from Congress yesterday on an infrastructure agreement, the US government would be wise to include digital technology, including data analytics, as a necessary component of the U.S. strategy on infrastructure. States, regions and local communities must utilize their biggest resource, data from the internet of things (IoT) and other sources, to improve operations, expand economic opportunities and enhance society. 

With insights powered by data analytics, public sector agency decision-makers can ensure that infrastructure projects achieve multiple goals:  : 

  • Promote safety and well-being

Using real-time data from IoT sensors on bridges, tunnels, roads and other critical infrastructure, as well as surveillance video from drones, public sector agencies can analyze the condition of these assets. They can better understand when assets will fail and make targeted and timely repairs. This helps keep traffic flowing and citizens safer. In the Netherlands, Rijkswaterstaat uses streaming analytics from SAS to gain deeper insights from their real-time IoT data for this purpose.

  • Increase sustainability and resilience

The management of water flow, storage, delivery, consumption and treatment benefits from data collected by sensors and meters. AI and streaming analytics help protect lives and properties from flooding and promote health through sophisticated monitoring for contaminants in drinking water. My hometown of Cary, NC, uses an integrated approach from SAS, powered by Microsoft Azure, which provides real-time situational awareness to ensure that the public is better protected from flooding events, new development projects are properly vetted and local watersheds are safeguarded.

  • Improve equity and economic development

By integrating demographic and economic data with project data, agencies can objectively prioritize projects and determine which projects have the greatest impact. As part of SAS Data For Good, a county in the US is developing analytical insights around wage gaps and other income-related attributes.

  • Ensure transparency and accountability

The communication of insights gleaned from data inform and engage citizens. Additionally, integrating analytics from intelligent systems can improve transparency and accountability for public sector agencies. In Wake County, NC the use of AI to assess property valuation enhances human judgment and provides an independent, data-driven, objective analysis to complement the team’s analysis and assumptions.

We can't miss this historic infrastructure opportunity

Analytics, including AI and streaming analytics at the edge and in the cloud, are the key to a forward-looking infrastructure strategy that encompasses goals including safety, sustainability and equity. With data collection, data integration, data governance, visualizations and AI, infrastructure can be optimized to better serve citizens. According to The Forrester Wave: Streaming Analytics Q2 2021, SAS is a leader in Streaming Analytics. In fact, SAS is the clear leader in advanced analytics and AI. It is the only vendor to be named a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning Platforms for all eight years of the report’s existence.

The federal government is entrusting state and local governments to implement our nation’s most historic investment in infrastructure. With the incorporation of data analytics, this investment will be maximized as infrastructure functions optimally and agencies have the insights to make fast, data-driven decisions. 

Learn more about analytics for infrastructure & transportation
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About Author

Lee Ann Dietz

Global Government and Smart Cities Practice Director

Lee Ann Dietz is an analytics evangelist for transportation and smart cities at SAS. She has almost 25 years experience supporting customers with analytical solutions. Prior to joining SAS in 2012, Lee Ann held various positions with Railinc, DZone, Inc., and SAS. Lee Ann began her career with American Airlines and SABRE, after earning her MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia and BA (Economics) degrees from Stanford University.

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