Infrastructure Opportunities For the third year in a row, I attended the annual “Year in Infrastructure Conference” presented by the Bentley Institute. This is a global gathering of leading executives in the world of infrastructure design, construction, and operations, and it focuses on best practices and technologies for going digital. The conference is globally recognized as the leading forum for addressing the current priorities and opportunities that impact the infrastructure industry. Attendees hear from industry thought leaders, engage in forums and discussions, and learn about technologies and best practices that will shape the future of infrastructure delivery and operations.

This year the meeting was held Oct. 21-24 in Singapore, a global financial center with impressive infrastructure. Truly a model example. I found the content at the conference to be so informative due to the case study examples that were presented by industry-leading guest speakers. After attending this program in October, and subsequently the AEM Annual Conference in November, it resulted in a very special opportunity to see how AEM and infrastructure stakeholders globally are all watching and influencing trends and opportunities. Just as McKinsey & Company provided information for us at the AEM Annual Conference, they were also a knowledgeable partner at the Bentley meeting in Singapore along with strategic partners Siemens, Microsoft, Topcon and Atos.

Dr. Ayesha Khanna, co-founder and CEO for ADDO, gave the guest Keynote presentation on artificial intelligence. I recall last year at the AEM Annual Conference, the very interesting presentation from IBM about Watson and AI. Such potential for our industry to use the amazing amount of data all of our organizations are creating in new strategic, and more powerful ways.  Another speaker was Keith Clarke, CBE, FREng, FICE, RIBA, Chairman, Forum for the Future, who gave a presentation on the effects of climate change on infrastructure. Whether or not we believe in the future predictions, the evaluation of current climate effects and the potential we have to create infrastructure that can successfully support our immediate challenges (for ex: flooding), it’s nevertheless thought-provoking and can inspire how technology can be a tool today for building sustainable infrastructure in the future. 

What about attracting more students into the construction industry? The Year In Infrastructure meeting included a presentation by Alison Watson MBE, founder and chief executive of Class of Your Own. She created the innovative “Design Engineer Construct!” (DEC) accredited learning program for secondary school students age 11-18, which has resulted in your people entering the sector to pursue a wide range of technical and professional careers through advanced and higher  apprenticeships, and traditional university entry. DEC supported by some of the United Kingdom's leading companies, professional bodies and universities through the ground breaking “Adopt a School” concept. We are keenly aware of the importance of getting education and awareness around the construction industry into the schools in order to increase the potential pool of new hires now and in the coming years. The amount of technology and software now used in the industry is a huge draw for graduates, provided they are aware it exists. 

We are living at an interesting time and are fortunate enough to be part of an industry that can make a difference in lives globally. Regardless of geographic boundaries or politics, we can seek a common goal of feeding and supporting the growing population. We are part of the largest industry in the world. While having been identified as the slowest to make change, we can move it forward more quickly.  

That’s why I’m taking an active role in AEM’s Infrastructure Vision 2050 initiative, which was launched to explore how our infrastructure should evolve to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century and the role of equipment manufacturers in this process. And after getting equipped by new ideas highlighted by the speakers, futurists, technology experts, and analysts at these recent events, I’m confident we can truly make the changes needed inside our own organizations, within our associations, and with partners, to successfully make a difference.

Jackie Ferreira is the director of corporate communications at Topcon Positioning Group and a member of AEM’s Infrastructure Vision 2050 Committee. 

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