The Digitalization of Infrastructure


    Autodesk released a report, Civil Infrastructure Strategic Industry Foresight — The Digitalization of Infrastructure, that discusses how trends in technology are poised to deliver a profitable, resilient, and agile industry, and a better built environment. It is a companion to Autodesk’s previous report, Constructing with the Power of Digital (, published in early 2017. 

    According to the report’s Forward, population growth, urbanization, and economic expansion during the next 20 years are set to present a $57 trillion infrastructure challenge. Trends in technology are changing the way in which industry professionals plan, design, build, and maintain the world’s infrastructure; however, concerns remain for how to address risk and increase profits.

    With an emphasis on BIM, big data, cloud computing, and analytics and the need to design for resiliency, taking into account the interdependency of all adjacent infrastructure systems and new ways of delivering projects, Autodesk presents its vision for an “Era of Connection.”

    According to Autodesk, in the new era of smart cities, “connections provide the foundation for more holistic planning, where all kinds of infrastructure are connected to each other to optimize and prioritize needs and performance, minimize energy use, and make life more enjoyable and productive for the people who live in them.”

    BIM is considered the “holistic platform” that is vital to meeting these demands and to reducing risk by providing better predictability and project outcomes. “Digitalized workflows and the interaction between digital models, people, social networks, and big data analytics will provide new insights to improve project predictability, long-term life cycle understanding, quality, safety, and costs,” Autodesk says. “They will redefine traditional workflows like never before and introduce an era of great potential, but also great business risk if not planned for and managed correctly by AEC firms.”

    BIM adoption in the United States is being driven primarily by the private sector, according to Theo Agelopoulos, director, Infrastructure Strategy & Marketing for Autodesk, with airports particularly progressive in implementation. The public sector plays a larger role in Europe and Asia, he said.

    The industry is reaching a tipping point, Agelopoulos said, caused in part by a lack of engineering students and a productivity gap that is causing firms to re-evaluate their processes. In addition, the user experience with BIM is becoming easier.

    Autodesk warns: “Given the velocity of technology development and its impact, infrastructure professionals need to overcome their traditional risk-averse perspective of new technology and processes to avoid being marginalized by outside entrants to the industry who will take advantage of the digitalization opportunity. Infrastructure executives should embrace these disruptive innovations, beginning with an internal audit of their firm’s digital capability compared to the standard of technology now available.

    “Within this decade, the computer and designer/engineer will finally unite as co-creators of infrastructure, launching our 4th industrial revolution.”

    The report’s Forward concludes: “Going forward, the role of infrastructure planners, designers, and contractors fundamentally changes. Building the infrastructure right is no longer good enough. In this impending connected era, we now must answer the more important question: ‘Are you building the right infrastructure in the first place?’”

    Information provided by Autodesk (