Modern Infrastructure must be Digital by Design

By Peter Cleveland, Vice President, Government and Policy Group, Intel

The long-awaited infrastructure plan outlined in the President’s State of the Union Address is a

Peter Cleveland

welcome effort to invest in and improve America’s physical infrastructure like roads, bridges and ports. At the same time, achieving the truly modern infrastructure President Trump has called for will require more than just concrete and steel. To implement smart, 21st century infrastructure, it will also require digital infrastructure to be designed in from the beginning.

The benefits of doing this could be tremendous and will yield higher return on public investments. Physical infrastructure spending will certainly increase jobs in the short-term, but, when enhanced by the capabilities of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, it can also drive long-term economic growth. That could yield an estimated economic impact of $3.9 to $11 trillion per year globally by 2025, according to McKinsey and Company.

Significant technological investments have already been made to digitize the global economy. As a result, digital advancements play an increasingly critical role in helping vital services like transportation, energy and water systems to run efficiently. Keeping pace with digital infrastructure technology will be essential to our financial security and continued growth as a leading industrial nation.

In particular, the United States has an opportunity to lead the future of transportation infrastructure. IoT infrastructure solutions are poised to help solve transportation safety, efficiency and mobility challenges by converting vast amounts of data into meaningful and actionable intelligence. It is expected that by 2040, 95% of new vehicles sold, or 96.3 million cars, will be fully autonomous. Repairing and paving over old roads will not be sufficient for those vehicles to reach their full potential. We need to enable the development of smart roads to successfully deploy new technology. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, smart traffic lights that sense ebbs and flows and adjust accordingly can reduce travel time in cities by 25 percent. With infrastructure solutions like these, we can maximize the use of existing transportation infrastructure and make American roads smarter, more efficient and safer.

Cloud computing and emerging 5G networks will also deliver an unprecedented level of accessibility to key services. Physical infrastructure, from buildings and roads, to bridges, railroads, dams and electrical grids, are increasingly creating data and are connected by digital networks. These networks will need to be deployed to every corner of our nation so that all Americans can benefit from key foundational technologies. While 5G mobile broadband networks are needed to support physical infrastructure, expansion of broadband to rural communities will also level the playing field for students and businesses. Children in remote and rural areas will have access to the same information and online services as their peers in more connected areas. Small businesses anywhere in the country will better be able to operate, grow and compete.

Cities continue to make sizable investments in digital infrastructure to increase efficiency, reduce environmental impact and drive economic development. Around the world, cities will invest over $40 trillion in the next two decades to upgrade infrastructure, all of which will utilize and rely upon the vast network of interconnected devices. Public-Private Partnerships like the Smart Cities USA project developed by Intel and the city of San Jose, California, are instrumental to ensuring global IoT leadership in digital infrastructure. This project will install a network of air quality, sound and micro-climate sensors to measure, traffic, air and noise pollution. The project aims to drive economic growth, create 25,000 CleanTech jobs, foster environmental sustainability and enhance the quality of life for citizens. In Columbus, Ohio, there is investment in the deployment of electric self-driving shuttles that will connect city residents to nearby jobs.

Intel is proud to be a global leader in innovation and digital infrastructure. We have invested in numerous digital infrastructure projects around the world to make real, lasting change in urban areas. It’s now up to our federal government to build on industry momentum, prioritize digital infrastructure and invest in the economy and jobs of the future.