How good is your infrastructure really? (It is more than just roads)

Thu, 2016-05-19 11:49 -- SCC Partner

By Eric Spiegel, Siemens

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. was thought to have the best infrastructure in the world, but that’s no longer true.  The American Society of Civil Engineers’ report card on the state of American infrastructure gave us a D+ and their recent economic report showed that between now and 2025 the investment shortfall will grow to $1.1 trillion. We are relying on aging infrastructures that in some cases are over 100 years old. Most of our power grid was built before the Internet was invented. It is not only today’s population that we are unable to sustain, but we cannot handle the forecasted growth over the next 20 years with our current systems. And with two-thirds of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, infrastructure has become the highest priority.

For the last several years during the month of May, business, labor groups and policy-making leadership have come together for Infrastructure Week, a national initiative to discuss what infrastructure means to Americans and what can be done to address these critical issues. Traditionally, the conversation around infrastructure has focused on improving our roads and bridges, which is essential. But, it’s important we recognize that infrastructure is made of more than concrete and steel. Infrastructure is also about power grids, transportation systems, the industrial base and smart buildings. Every sector has the potential to contribute to rebuilding and renewing our country’s infrastructure. What we have to do is focusing on building infrastructure that is smarter. 

By putting technology to use that is already changing our lives, we can not only improve infrastructure, but make systems more intuitive, safer, cleaner and more efficient. Like in Port Manatee, Florida, where a new project will manage physical and digital security infrastructure throughout the Port. This system will allow them to better track the movement of goods, which is extremely important for a Port that moves approximately eight million tons of cargo annually.

In Seattle, where new integrated traffic management software will connect traditionally separate traffic systems in and around the city to provide a clear view of issues and congestion in real-time. With this insight, the city will be able to plan better routes and manage traffic during special events like Seahawks games.

And in Chicago, getting clean, drinkable water to its more than five million citizens is no small feat. The purification plants that bring water from Lake Michigan and turn it into fresh water must operate as efficiently as possible, which is why Chicago is upgrading power distribution infrastructure at the city’s South Water Purification plant. The new technology will make the plant more efficient and will save the city millions in energy and maintenance costs. 

With technology and software, cities can not only get the most out of our country’s existing infrastructure, but plan for ways to better plan and build for the future. Every city is different, but for many, reducing carbon is a top priority. It’s certainly a priority for Siemens and why we made a bold announcement to cut our global carbon footprint in half by 2020 and make our global carbon operations carbon neutral by 2030. 

For cities, getting there is a test of how well you take advance of new technologies, but before taxpayer dollars or capital expenditures are allocated, city leaders deserve to have some proof that these technologies will pay for themselves. We’re working with five U.S. cities including Washington, DC; New Bedford, MA; Riverside, CA; Minneapolis, MN; San Francisco, CA and Mexico City, Mexico to test a city planning tool that allows cities to make smarter use of the data.  They can use the tool to both see where their big areas of need are and calculate which technologies will deliver the greatest impact.

As a company that with 50,00 employees across all 50 states that works with cities of all sizes throughout the U.S. and in more than 190 countries around the world we believe attention to upgrading our U.S. infrastructure is the kind of focus we need to create jobs, growth and economic opportunity for American workers in the 21st century. Building smarter infrastructure with technology and software will be an essential way to ensure the economic success and longevity of cities across America. 

Eric Spiegel is the President and CEO of Siemens USA and is responsible for growing the U.S. business in the company’s largest market. With over $22 billion in sales including $5.5 billion exports and approximately 50,000 employees in the U.S., Siemens is a global leader in technology and services focusing on the areas of industrial electrification, automation and digitalization. Mr. Spiegel joined Siemens in January 2010 after 25 years of global consulting experience with organizations in the oil and gas, power, chemicals, water, diversified industrials, retail and automotive markets.