Next-Gen Canadian Infrastructure Depends on A Highway Built of Bits and Bytes

Next-Gen Canadian Infrastructure Depends on Highway Built of Bits and BytesIn a recent Globe and Mail article, four reputable Canadians present ideas to build a stronger Canada through better infrastructure:

  1. Adrienne Clarkson calls for better Canadian rail infrastructure and believes there is much room to improve upon and increase the public mobility.
  2. Bernie Faber highlights the dismal state of the Canadian road system. He reminds us that despite potholes and crowded highways, we have nothing to complain about when compared to rural communities.
  3. Charles Pachter calls for improved cultural infrastructure to improve the creative side of Canada. This in in turn will add jobs in the arts and raise our national profile.
  4. David Miller explains that Canada has the opportunity to be a global leader in green energy that powers the world.

Adrienne Clarkson argues that technology alone does not solve our public transportation issues. She states that there is more at stake and Canada will need to invest billions to get its public rail infrastructure on par with the average European country. Perhaps with few more billion dollars, Canada can also address its paved roadway problem. Between the lack of roads and the poor quality connecting Canada’s major cities – one of them explains my 75-minute commute – there simply won’t be enough money printed to upgrade Canada’s transportation infrastructure to levels that one may enjoy elsewhere.

Unlike Clarkson, I believe technology holds all of the power for more efficient transportation. But not in the way you may think.

Historically, a train station along a railway or an exit from major highway was a sign of economic activity and prosperity. Now we should be looking at laying a fabric of ultra-high-speed broadband that will connect all Canadians, institutions and business.

It may not solve the valid problems raised by Clarkson and Faber, but may add a new dimension that allows Canada to leapfrog ahead in the productivity and innovation trajectory, currently greatly held back due to the lack and poor quality of the nation’s infrastructure.

Don’t think of infrastructure renewal as a choice for trains or cars, but a complementary layer of bits and bytes. Canada is suddenly becoming smaller when we can connect the unconnected – from things, to processes, and people all across the country,  our First Nations, rural Canada and our metropolitan areas and everyone in between.

Creating Opportunity Through the Internet of Everything

Not only do technology connections flatten the world as it relates to collaboration, it also provides us the infrastructure to improve productivity and re-introduce innovation and entrepreneurship in the rapidly changing and global marketplace. As we connect more people and objects through the Internet of Everything (IoE), we can unleash new economic opportunities and fuel incremental business opportunities. We can also start to eliminate the inefficiencies in our communities and country.

The same technology that will allow us to run our country more efficiently, provide the means to collaborate more effectively and help deliver economic opportunity, will now also provide the platform on top of which to modernize our electrical and energy grids. From Smart Grids to Smart Cars, to Smart Lighting, to Smart Buildings, to Smart Everything–we have the opportunity to drastically alter the carbon profile of Canada and reduce our consumption exponentially.

As David Miller so eloquently described in the Globe and Mail article, “This is the Canada that’s possible, the Canada that does better than compete – that leads.”

What are your thoughts on revolutionizing our communities through technology? Let me know in the comment section below.

About Rick Huijbregts

Rick Huijbregts is Vice President of Industry Transformation where he is responsible for Cisco Canada’s IoE strategy and industry business development. The members of his team are industry subject matter experts and each engage in the transformation of their respective industries (healthcare, oil and gas, financial services, education, real estate, and industrial sector). Huijbregts is also General Manager for Cisco Canada’s Smart + Connected Communities practice, including Smart + Connected Real Estate. Huijbregts holds construction and architecture degrees from Tilburg Polytechnic University and Delft University in the Netherlands, and a doctorate from Harvard University. Huijbregts is currently a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education where he teaches classes on Smart Buildings and Smart Cities. He also serves on several boards of Canadian academic institutions and not-for-profits. Rick Huijbregts est vice-président de la transformation sectorielle dont les responsabilités comptent la stratégie de l’internet multidimensionnel et le développement commercial du secteur industriel de Cisco Canada. Les membres de son équipe sont tous des experts dans différents domaines et œuvrent à la transformation de leurs secteurs d’activité respectifs (santé, énergie, services financiers, enseignement, immobilier et industrie). Huijbregts est également directeur général du segment des communautés intelligentes et connectées, dont le volet immotique des immeubles intelligents et connectés de Cisco Canada. M. Huijbregts est titulaire de diplômes en construction et architecture de l’université Tilburg Polytechnic et de l’université Delft aux Pays-Bas ainsi que d’un doctorat de l’université Harvard. Il est actuellement professeur de Harvard à la faculté d’études supérieures pour les cadres en aménagement urbain où il donne des cours sur la gestion intelligente des immeubles et des villes. Il siège également à plusieurs conseils d’administration d’universités et d’organismes à but non lucratif.
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2 Responses to Next-Gen Canadian Infrastructure Depends on A Highway Built of Bits and Bytes

  1. Michael Ross says:

    Very well thought out and innovative solution to what is a growing problem. Certainly telecommuting and collaborating using technology is going to become more and more common; lets hope our governments make wise investments.

  2. Rick Huijbregts says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your feedback. We agree—we believe telecommuting and using advanced technology to empowering and connecting with those that decide to live where they want to live (including far-away and remote communities) is going to be table-stakes. The new generation that will enter our workforce will have very open attitudes towards this. I do hope with you, that governments take the leading and shaping role that they can have to guide, direct, and accelerate adoption, and look at the consequent need for technology infrastructure as equally relevant to bricks, mortar, concrete and asphalt. What can we (you, us, industry) do to promote, education, and advance the dialogue?

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