It is no longer enough for an engineering or construction company to think about how they build infrastructure – they must also consider what the assets reveal when equipped with digital technology, and how to make the most of that data. Among other things, for example, the information can often be used to improve how the infrastructure is used.
This is part of a series exploring the opportunities and challenges of infratech, the integration of technology into infrastructure. You can read more in our special report or request an exclusive Pinsent Masons research report.
Infrastructure companies that look towards new services they can offer alongside traditional construction activities, harnessing technologies such as big data analytics, will be attractive partners for infrastructure owners as they seek help developing, operating, managing and maintaining 'infratech' assets.
Infratech is a term used to describe the increasing convergence of physical infrastructure and digital technologies. Its growth has been highlighted in a new report by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.
In a keenly fought market, infrastructure companies that show an eagerness and capability for innovating and extracting value from infratech assets stand to gain the most. In this respect, infrastructure companies can learn from technology companies from the way they are set up to come up with new ideas and deliver innovation quickly.
One of the things infrastructure companies should consider is how they can integrate new digital technologies into their own businesses to help streamline operations and make processes more efficient. This can help prepare them for offering technology-based services to infrastructure owners.
We are seeing examples of this in the market. Some infrastructure providers are developing their own technology solutions such as software which allows them to see real-time financial data on construction projects. This can help them improve the financial management of projects. We are also increasingly working with infrastructure providers to develop technology solutions to assist with the identification and management of contract risks throughout the lifecycle of a project from procurement through to completion and/or operation of the asset.
The technology we are seeing can be quite transformative to the business. Infrastructure companies are deriving immediate benefits from its use and also seeing other use cases for new technology and systems in other areas of their operations. It is helping to challenge existing mind-sets inside those organisations and accelerate the rate of change, because staff are interacting with the technologies all the time. It serves as a good platform for moving into a new world of offering technology-based services.
Infrastructure companies should be focusing on looking at the assets in which they think their future business lies and be bold in challenging existing mind-sets and pricing and contractual structures or practices that they think hold back innovation in infratech. There is a gap in the market for infrastructure firms to do this, and early in the bid phase. Those that embrace new technology in their own business are will be well placed to take advantage of these opportunities.
Anne-Marie Friel is an expert in infrastructure project contracts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.