Australia takes steps towards smart infrastructure

By on 5 April, 2016

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The Australian government is making significant moves towards smart ICT-enabled infrastructure projects supported by spatial technologies. Australia’s House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities recently tabled the Smart ICT Report on the inquiry into the role of smart ICT in the design and planning of infrastructure. The report calls for a more coordinated and integrated approach to the development and application of smart ICT to infrastructure, encompassing many spatial industry innovations such as Building Information Modelling/Management (BIM), geospatial information technology, Internet of Things (IoT), spatial gamification, machine vision, 3D visualisation and spatial data capture methods such as mobile laser scanning.

Committee Chair, Mr John Alexander MP, said the report on the role of Smart ICT in the design and planning of infrastructure revealed Smart ICT has the capacity to transform the infrastructure industry, from the design, construction and management of infrastructure assets, to the management and use of existing assets, as well as the operation of transport, communications, energy and utility systems.

“These technologies are transformational with the capacity to dramatically increase the productivity of the Australian economy,” Mr Alexander said. “In order to achieve this, however, governments and industry must be aware of the potential of smart ICT, and must invest in the technologies, skills and systems to make the transformation a reality.”

The chair of the Spatial Industries Business Association (SIBA), Glenn Cockerton, has applauded the government’s new emphasis on the rapidly emerging role spatial technologies and applications have in delivering smart ICT futures.

SIBA’s joint submission with QUT and AECOM, along with the recent SIBA-buildingSMART joint white paper entitled “Integration of Geospatial and Built Environment – National Data Policy” were both heavily cited by the Standing Committee’s Smart ICT report. “Our submissions are testament to our serious commitment to advancing the spatial industry and provide the foundation for a well-informed strategy for implementing an innovation program in Australia.”

SIBA Chair, Glenn Cockerton responded to the report’s recommendations stating “Australia is at the cusp of realising the real value of digital assets. We are about to witness a major transformation in the way we design and manage the built environment.”

According to Cockerton “If the Government proceeds with the recommended step of making BIM mandatory on centrally procured public sector projects, this will drive significant innovation and economic growth in the spatial industries. It will also stimulate a wider raft of changes to make Australian construction more efficient, competitive and sustainable. Similar initiatives have been undertaken in other economies, most notably the UK, with great success.”

The central recommendation of the report is the formation of a Smart Infrastructure Task Force (based on the UK model) to provide national coordination between governments, industry and researchers.  The report also recommends the mandating of BIM at its highest level of detail on all major Government infrastructure projects exceeding $50 million in cost. BIM is a comprehensive process involving the generation and management of virtualised representations of physical, spatial and functional characteristics of places.

Cockerton also commented on the need to learn from the United Kingdom’s BIM advancements. “We can build upon the collective experience of others rather than waste time and resources in reinvention,” said Cockerton. “SIBA’s joint submission to the Standing Committee introduces Australia with an exciting opportunity to ‘adopt and adapt’ the current best-of-breed policy model and build a world leading 3rd generation framework.”

“Importantly Australia needs to learn from the UK experience in BIM and appreciate their programme has received significant government funding. As industry hasn’t had to pick up the whole cost, BIM adoption has become a joint enterprise, with the BIM ‘building blocks’ freely shared and further developed in consultation, case studies helping inform future adoption, and widespread sharing, including via social media, of BIM tools and learning.”

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