It’s #TimetoBuild. Here’s How Cities Should.

Many say U.S. infrastructure is “crumbling.” Yet infrastructure’s durability creates challenges too.

Unlike much of the modern machinery in our personal lives – which we can replace one-for-one on a regular basis – the opportunity for cities to replace a building or power plant with something new might only happen once in a generation, or even once in a century.

A pivotal question I raised at the Infrastructure Week East Coast Kickoff Event at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station was: How can dynamic, growing cities revitalize and reinvent utilities, buildings, factories and transportation systems with new digital technologies?

Our answer: unlocking dollars and data.

America’s infrastructure will need to accommodate 70 million additional people in less than 30 years. Yet U.S. infrastructure is already stressed. So are the businesses and people who depend on it. It’s #TimetoBuild; and without question, the country will build more by increasing overall investment.

With America’s 10 largest metros alone contributing more than 30 percent of U.S. GDP, the value of strategic public sector investment is clear. At the same time, with U.S. cities requiring $510 billion in infrastructure investment by 2030, projects can’t rely on public funding alone. New funding strategies led by the private sector – including public-private partnerships (P3s) – can help close funding gaps and advance critical projects.

But we still need to focus on another powerful asset in addition to capital – and that’s data.

Here’s an example. A Siemens-manufactured Amtrak locomotives pulling into Union Station today has more than 800 data points. That by itself – the mere production of that data – isn’t very valuable. But when you start analyzing this data in real time, like our digital service centers now do, the results speak for themselves. Delays along the Northeast Corridor have since dropped by more than 30 percent.

Our digital specialists are now adding similar value through digital services to Charlotte’s light rail system and to Atlanta’s streetcar system. Yet as we look at U.S. infrastructure more broadly, these stories still represent the potential more than the reality. Globally, less than 1 percent of the world’s available data is currently being used in a meaningful way – and we’re now making it part of our mission to change this.

We think the first step to building a smart city is to connect all of the city’s data coming from devices and sensors through a cloud-based platform. This holistic, real-time view into a city’s infrastructure becomes a foundation to do things like prepare power grids for electric transportation or pioneer self-sufficient buildings. It enables a city to better manage transportation systems, utilities, and buildings so they live longer and perform better; to fix things before they break; and to make traditionally static systems, like streets, more flexible and adaptable to free up traffic and improve safety.

Siemens works with more than 100 cities across America. And we look forward to working with customers in new ways, bringing together urban planners and technologists, academics and tech talent.

Together, Siemens and cities can not only optimize infrastructure; we can ensure that projects advance real outcomes that improve society, whether that’s cleaner air, safer streets, better commutes, more efficient buildings, or power supplies that are more resilient, dynamic and cleaner.

It is possible, right now, using technology already in Siemens’ portfolio, to accomplish all of the above. This really inspires us. And we hope it also inspires the public sector to seize this opportunity to be an investor as well.

Download the Siemens infographic Building Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Today.