UMass Lowell’s Mao says integrating modern technologies, including the IoT, autonomous systems, and big data analytics using artificial intelligence into infrastructure improves 1) awareness of the state of infrastructure, 2) its reliability and resilience, and 3) its safety. On top of these benefits, smarter infrastructure is often more convenient for citizens and local governments, for instance, by enabling the use of live traffic information for decisionmaking purposes. And by supporting predictive maintenance of infrastructures, smart systems can increase their longevity, maximizing investments for the long term.
Of course, whenever we talk about infrastructure, the question of funding always looms. “The business model is still unclear for now,” Mao adds. “Who will pay for the investment that benefits the whole society?” While it isn’t yet clear how infrastructure spending will change in the next decade in the U.S., whether the gas tax will catch up with the times, or how the new administration will address challenges in the realm of transportation and infrastructure, what is clear is that Americans themselves are the ones who will pay the price if the nation continues to underfund its infrastructure systems.
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