Transport infrastructure

The Intelligent Infrastructure Control Centre is a new cloud-based platform developed by the TIES Living Lab that aims to harness digital to radically change the way the UK designs, delivers and manages transport infrastructure

The Intelligent Infrastructure Control Centre (IICC) is designed to push the pace of digitisation and innovation to drive better, faster and greener delivery of UK infrastructure.

A demonstrator for the IICC has been developed by Costain, working with key partner SAP and the Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy Living Lab (TIES Living Lab), a consortium that includes HS2, Transport for London, the East West Rail Company and Network Rail.

TIES Living Lab

With the UK set for a wave of infrastructure investment worth £600bn over the next decade, the TIES Living Lab has been created to maximise the opportunities to drive efficiencies in the delivery of transport projects and to build capability within delivery, innovation and managing construction risk.

There are 25 partners in all, working with government, i3P and the Construction Innovation Hub to use data, technology and Modern Methods of Construction within live transport infrastructure schemes to deliver significant value-adding benefits across the sector.

The UK has a modest track record on infrastructure delivery, with some programmes completed late, over budget, failing to deliver the expected benefits or being cancelled after significant investment.

With the increasing pipeline of major projects, capacity to deliver is being stretched and many programmes are tending to avoid innovation risk. Such attitudes are deeply engrained and cultural, creating barriers to greater adoption of MMC.

The TIES Living Lab is designed to offer a strategic, scalable and sector-wide approach with government, client groups, suppliers and academia working in partnership. It works with i3P and the Construction Innovation Hub to tackle systemic issues that still obstruct the use, integration and adoption of innovations that could drive productivity and wider social benefits through major construction schemes and aims to be a catalyst for cultural change, shifting focus within infrastructure delivery decision-making from the costs of construction to understanding whole-life value.

The Intelligent Infrastructure Control Centre

The IICC is one of the first initiatives to come out of the TIES Living Lab. It has been developed to harmonise the vast quantities of intelligence that infrastructure projects generate and drive greater productivity and resilience through the capture of efficiency and innovation. This will contribute to a radical culture change in how the industry designs and delivers projects and will offer a completely different way of managing operations that will save money and time.

The system takes comprehensive operational data from an infrastructure project portfolio and then synthesises the information on to one platform. At a project level, this data is essential to effectively manage operations. At an enterprise level, it informs numerous processes including budgeting, talent acquisition and external reporting. For organisations with responsibility for national infrastructure across the UK, the IICC system can deliver complete visibility of enterprise performance.

Tim Embley, director of research, innovation and development at Costain, said: “Many of our clients across all sectors we work it, whether it be energy, defence, water or transportation, face challenges with having consistent and accurate data on critical factors such as commercial, carbon, safety, as well as complete cost transparency.

“But, of course, optimising the design, delivery and operation of infrastructure schemes requires access to the right data at the right time to help inform decision-making and look for opportunities to increase the whole-life value of any programme or asset, including things like social value, which can sometimes remain hidden.

“Within the system, you can bring different datasets to life – what gets collated and tracked is decided collaboratively with the client. It brings full data transparency to empower the key decision-makers. With its built-in analytics functionality, it can also literally predict the future.

“Where data isn’t easily available, it uses artificial intelligence to deep mine the existing data to manufacture data that means you can start to predict the outcomes and look at scenarios and decisions that are going to be made. This helps reduce the unknowns and significantly reduces risk, thereby cutting costs, increasing efficiency and giving greater delivery certainty.”

Neil Robertson, chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) and TIES Living Lab programme lead, said: “It’s hard to build or maintain a piece of transport infrastructure. A lot can go wrong, and it frequently does, so improving the information available and turning them into insight as well as foresight is incredibly useful.

“One of the potentials of the IICC is that we see things before they take a turn in a certain direction and the anticipation of problems is a real gamechanger.”

Rapid transformation

Another issue faced at both a company and industry level is that of “innovation siloes”, where great ideas can become buried and are not shared. This represents a huge loss of potential value. Using the IICC, innovations can be identified and transferred on a live basis. For example, there could be an innovation on a road project where the use of 3D machine control has achieved 30% savings on the earthworks. Network Rail might be looking for some efficiency savings on a big new railway project, something like HS2, and could achieve 30% efficiency savings through the earthworks with the same innovation.

Embley adds: “The data collated into the TIES Living Lab’s IICC will make it easier for organisations to understand and shape the business case for investing in and adopting that innovation elsewhere.

“This means it can be transferred more seamlessly from one supply chain or sector to another, helping to drive those savings at scale a lot more quickly than ever before. This means more success for owners and operators of infrastructure and ultimately better results for our communities who need the critical infrastructure.”

Costain’s chief digital officer, Nathan Marsh, said: “What we’ll see in the infrastructure sector, as this technology becomes embedded, is very rapid transformation: better data ensuring better, faster and greener delivery of infrastructure that will improve productivity and build resilience across the sector.”

To learn more about the new IICC platform, listen to the Engineering Matters podcast #74 Weaving a New Data Fabric for Infrastructure or watch the SAP webinar discussing Digital Disruption of the Infrastructure Industry.



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