Smart infrastructure is a digitally advanced structure or facility that monitors, measures, analyses, communicates and acts based on data captured from sensors.
The concept is closely related to the Internet of Things (IoT) – physical devices connecting and sharing real-time data without human intervention. The main reason for implementing smart infrastructures is improving efficiency, sustainability, productivity, safety – or all of these. For example, by using sensors and data analytics, intelligent transport systems help increase the efficiency of urban traffic and improve road safety.
What makes it “smart”?
In addition to the physical structure, smart infrastructure is defined by four principles. It:
- operates based on data
- analyses the collected data
- comes with a feedback loop – a part of a system in which some or all of the system’s output also acts as an input to improve how the system operates
- in addition to the current demand, is adaptable to future needs
The main benefits of a smart infrastructure
- Cost and resource efficiency. For example, smart streetlights adapt to the activity on the streets to save energy when lighting is not necessary.
- Safety. For example, traffic-monitoring systems can detect vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists to help improve safety.
- Sustainability. For example, energy management systems of smart buildings enable efficient use and on-site production of energy.
- Reliability. As smart systems are less likely to meet unpredictable downs because of human error, the service quality is better. For example, smart waste management systems automatically exchange data about waste containers filling up, and schedule pick-up as needed.
- User experience. Smart infrastructures are adaptable to the changing needs and behaviours of the users. For example, connected electric cars communicate with charging stations and direct drivers to the nearest available dock.
With the increasing role of IoT, there is a need for solutions that help the users to take the maximum from the available technologies. While often invisible, smart infrastructures shape very different aspects of our everyday life.