This year, the impressive collection of Canada’s top 100 infrastructure projects total an astounding $114 billion investment (18% more than last year!). Only five years ago, a list as impressive as this one would have gone unnoticed by companies in the IT industry. Our industry would have simply dismissed it as just concrete, big cranes and increased traffic congestion.
On their side, the companies involved in the largest projects would have not given IT much thought either. Traditionally, IT components in construction would have comprised as low as 0.25% (civil) to as high as 3% (commercial) of the total project budget – probably not more than $400 million of the $114 billion investment. IT would have been a rounding error, an afterthought.
Times have changed. IT is increasingly becoming required and even mission critical for the development of future infrastructure projects. The driving force will come from a need for connectivity; connected lighting controls and HVAC in buildings; transportation systems (e.g. automated toll systems); sensors; wireless devices in vehicles and on persons, and so forth. Everything is becoming connected and interdependent. The underlying networks will need to be built or updated to support the massive increase of traffic (bits and bytes) and activity (transactions).
Additionally, the required compute power for the “analytics” that help enable optimal performance of our infrastructure (utilization, economics, energy) is calling for data centres and the secure availability of the cloud.
Not long from now, I suspect that we will find IT as a significant component of some of the infrastructure projects in the top 100 as provinces, municipalities and businesses develop this mission critical infrastructure. IT will be more than a rounding error and will become, like concrete, the foundation for a smart and connected world.