A surge of new data on new assets is redefining asset management as we know it. Are You Ready?
The transportation industry is about to get more intelligent—more intelligent systems, that is. With the rapid emergence of ITS technology in signs, signals, lights, crossings, and more, transportation leaders now have whole new categories of assets they need to manage. As ITS assets grow in number and complexity, so does the need for management methods and systems that can handle the flood of new inventory, condition, and performance data these assets will generate.
Rethinking How Assets Provide Value
When asset management first came on the scene in the 1990s, it sparked a bit of a revolution in how we create, preserve, and continually deliver value to the traveling public. Now a second revolution may be on our doorstep. With the introduction of data-driven mobility made possible by applications that provide services to the user through physical, nearly autonomous devices like intelligent signals, we are looking at a constant flow of real-time information that needs processing. This information must be part of efforts to improve and sustain safe, reliable transportation for people and goods. It may be time to rethink how agencies—and the assets themselves—will continue to provide societal value.
Changing Not Just Technology, But Behavior
ITS spurs a two-pronged advancement: a development in both technology and behavior that will change the way we think about and use transportation assets. Behavior-wise, we will move toward mobility-as-a-service, where we treat mobility much like any other commodity that we take for granted in industrialized countries: water, electricity, natural gas, and so on. In this model, your mobility service provider will offer modes of transportation to choose from, and you will be sent from starting point X to destination Y in the way that suits your needs and your budget.
To get a sense of what’s in store in the not-too-distant future, consider the current developments in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), with their electric and clean propulsion and improved real-time information, and you’ll have an idea of the not-so-futuristic trends in transportation— especially in urban areas.Technology-wise, the infrastructure itself will become communicative and share information with your service provider—and with you—to ensure safe travels. This means more devices will be built into the infrastructure. These gadgets will provide more surveillance, require more maintenance, and drive up operations costs. But they will likely also create less congestion, more safety, and better mobility—including for kids, seniors, and those with disabilities—and therefore a more livable and dependable society.
It’s Not the Data—It’s the Integration
The (internet of) thing is, though, that all of this technology-infused infrastructure won’t work without proactive and real-time asset management. The infrastructure that provides the services we so depend on has to be tested, installed, monitored, updated, quality-approved, maintained, and so one. We will have far more assets to manage, including public and private fleets of CAVs, dockless bikes and scooters, intelligent signals, cameras, sensors, and more.
And the data will flow between fixed and moving assets, authorities, service providers, and users of the transportation network—basically all of us. You can call it big data, but it is actually the data integration that will become even more important. We will need better and better ways to make data integration smooth and seamless.
An Expanded Role for Asset Management
If you take a step back and look at the challenges of having much more data on (and from) many more assets, then the solution starts with classic asset management disciplines: needs assessment, inventory, planning, design, maintenance, operations management, and more—all in an iterative process that includes collecting and analyzing data and making the required adjustments. But as the volume of data increase, we will have an even greater need for advanced data analytics—with even shorter iterations due to the shorter asset lifecycles. (Intelligent devices generally do not last as long as roads and bridges.)
One might expect a quantitative and qualitative leap forward. Self-driving electric buses and smooth rides through green lights sound fantastic. But it takes strategic planning, systematic management, and the right infrastructure investments to achieve these advancements. Is your agency ready?