The government believes that emerging digital technologies, artificial intelligence and the so-called ‘internet of things’ could revolutionise infrastructure management. It just doesn’t yet know exactly how so it wants the NIC to find out, and advise ministers on what they should be doing to help.
“Innovation and infrastructure are at the heart of the government’s economic and industrial strategy, and emerging technologies have the potential to radically improve the way we manage our infrastructure,” said Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in a letter to NIC chair Lord Adonis. “That is why I am asking you to conduct a study to identify which new technologies have the greatest potential for improving the productivity of our infrastructure, and what steps government should take to support the deployment of these technologies.”
The terms of reference set out by the Chancellor flesh out the scope of work: “Identify which emerging technologies have the most potential in terms of optimising the management, performance and maintenance of existing and future infrastructure assets to support economic growth; and make recommendations to government on what actions it should consider to support the deployment of those technologies across infrastructure areas and sectors, including identifying where trial approaches may be appropriate”.
The commission has been asked to publish its report by the end of 2017.
NIC deputy chair Sir John Armitt responded: “From electric vehicles to the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, the technologies of the future could have an enormous impact on the UK’s economic infrastructure and the ways in which rely upon it.
“As new technologies develop, Britain must do everything it can to ensure that we are best placed to reap the benefits - and that includes incorporating innovative new systems and practices into the infrastructure that keeps our country moving.
“Britain should seek to lead the world in harnessing the emerging technologies that can make our lives easier and our economy more productive. This study will consider how we make that happen.”