/ Column / Infrastructure Outlook: Liberate Data for Integrated Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure Outlook: Liberate Data for Integrated Infrastructure Development

Ahmed Abukhater on October 14, 2016 - in Column

The world is changing around us, with disruptive and efficiency-enabling technology supporting a whole new level of communication, collaboration and productivity. We have a lot more data, tools and technological options in all aspects of our business, including data acquisition, analysis, storage, visualization and sharing. This creates new realities, challenges and opportunities, and infrastructure projects are no exception.

Lack of collaboration among the various stages of infrastructure projects, and the difficulty in capturing and incorporating changes made in each stage, results in final construction that may be different from the originally planned and designed project. In addition, it takes between seven to 10 years (on average) from the time a project is designed and planned to the time it’s actually built and brought to fruition.

There has been a major disconnect between planning and design phases, which can be attributed to the tedious and time-consuming processes of stakeholder collaboration and development approval made more difficult without ubiquitous data access through all project phases. There’s also a gap between design and construction phases, and the fact that these plans aren’t easily translated into construction-ready designs that are operational in the field.

Integrated Infrastructure Development

Planners, designers and development agencies of all sizes are keen to optimize data storage, access and dissemination to increase enterprise collaboration as well as timely and efficient project completion to be economically competitive as well as environmentally sound and sustainable. The need to establish a centralized operational and collaboration platform that ties the various phases of any infrastructure project together is one of the top needs to optimize and streamline project planning and operation.

Although data are one of the most-valuable assets of any organization, in many cases they’re locally stored and stranded in a single location, making them difficult to access and utilize to support decision making throughout the entire project lifecycle. The mechanism by which data are served, accessed and managed is as critical as the data themselves to enable open, collaborative and integrated infrastructure projects.


Technologies such as BYOD (bring your own device), and new advancements in data storage and management, can transform projects from isolated entities to fully networked enterprises. As “the cloud” becomes more affordable, and its deployment becomes more acceptable and pervasive, comprehensive end-to-end solutions are warranted to ingest relevant project data, translate these different data points into actionable intelligence and share outcomes throughout the entire process.

Using enterprise capabilities and collaborative processes, we can establish bi-directional channels of communication to easily capture citizen feedback on proposed projects, disseminate critical information to interested stakeholders and streamline the approval and implementation process. The result is greater interaction and transparency, and a more-efficient operation.

Data Security, Availability and Flexibility

Whether a public or private cloud, concerns related to system security, availability and flexibility are important aspects, as are cost, usage and back-end system integration. Organizations should only pay for the service they actually intend to use.

Some data and applications can be shared with the public, while others need to be restricted to certain users, such as designers and contractors. For those reasons, a successful enterprise-level cloud deployment shouldn’t rely on a singular approach of either a private or public cloud.

Instead, a hybrid cloud offers the flexibility to allow higher security and level of control for some privately run cloud applications, while allowing other applications to be publicly available. This approach allows project data and applications to seemingly flow from one system and stage to another, augmenting a private cloud with the capability and resources of a public cloud with enterprise-level deployment and support.

These advancements are transforming the way we plan projects, design components, and build and maintain structures, allowing all stakeholders to be informed, involved and empowered to make decisions and receive appropriate data

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About Ahmed Abukhater

Ahmed Abukhater, Ph.D., AICP, GISP, is an architect, environmental scientist, and urban and regional planner; email: [email protected].

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