Posted: 14 May 2021 3 min. read

Digitising infrastructure assets will transform how we live

You’re visiting Tokyo when it’s safe to do so, and you can’t wait to finally witness Japan’s traditional sport of Sumo wrestling in person. You’ve planned months ahead to secure scarce tournament tickets for bouts next January, 2022. Held at the city’s Ryōgoku Kokugikan stadium, you have no idea how to get there, but that’s OK. You’ve been told by a colleague who lives in Tokyo that you don’t need to plan ahead on how you get there (or anywhere else for that matter), because you can Google search for public transport options on the day.

You see, the transport system in this huge city with a population of almost 14 million citizens is fully networked. Which means you can search for routes to your desired destination in real time on your mobile phone. And choose which trains or buses you want to take – including their various connection times (right down to the recommended train carriage you get on, for a smooth connection at the next train’s platform). You may want to go directly from your hotel, or via a museum, favourite shop or restaurant. The choice is yours. You can change your mind along the way; every time you search for transport options, you’re given refreshed, real-time options at your finger trips. Whatever meandering route you take, you’ll end up at Ryōgoku Station, walk to the nearby stadium and enjoy an entertaining evening of watching Sumo wrestling.

So, what does being a happy tourist in Tokyo have to do with us here in Australia?

Quite bit, actually!

In the case of public transport, it provides a clear picture of how our Australian infrastructure assets could operate in the future – as a modernised network of transparent, connected, smart assets – to help people like the Sumo-loving commuting tourist. Everyone should be able to make fast, spontaneous decisions about what they do, where and when.

The answer is in effective infrastructure digitisation.

If we have the right information being shared across the right systems in a secure way,  infrastructure users like our international tourist can make the most effective use of a service in a way that suits them on any given day, we’re winning in the smart infrastructure game.

In Tuesday’s 2021-2022 Federal Budget announcement we saw that infrastructure continues to be key a contributor to Australia’s economy with vital follow on effects, including:

  • Federal Budget infrastructure spending stimulates our national economy with State Governments responding with their own budget allocations to improve or build new infrastructure assets – for example a safe, top quality connected transport system of rails, bridges, tunnels and roads
  • Infrastructure investments create genuine, local employment opportunities – the people and machinery needed to physically build or improve those infrastructure assets – which provides job security for those directly involved in the design and build, as well as their local economies where those incomes are spent
  • Smart infrastructure improves our lives – from reducing traffic congestion, to helping tackle climate change, to making energy cheaper.

Our infrastructure experts share what our Australian infrastructure future could – and should – hold.

Robert Spittle, Strategy and Operations Partner, says. “We’re passionate about giving Australians access to the services they expect and need by creating smart infrastructure. And to do that, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of infrastructure asset owners, the operators and the users. Why? To see what needs to be done to deliver the best business outcomes for them, and to develop government capability to optimise how infrastructure is designed, procured, delivered and operated for all Australians. We need to think about the longer term transparent, connected, smart assets, not just building assets.”

How can we make sure Australian infrastructure is smart?

Traditionally, assets have been treated as individual projects and the focus has been on building assets. Obviously, this is important. But smart infrastructure means looking at the bigger picture. Beyond build, to maintain and operate, making sure all stakeholders get optimal returns on the investment.

Paul Mountney, National Lead Partner, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, explains, “Infrastructure is supported by a myriad of systems which produce data to help run and operate it.

“We know that the anticipated spend on Australian infrastructure in the next decade or so is over $760 billion dollars. The biggest opportunity for making long-lasting improvements lie in digital capital project delivery. We need to push the envelope and make the best use of those investment dollars.

“We can harness the power of data technologies across the asset lifecycle to manage and leverage the rich environments associated with infrastructure assets…”

Rob adds, “It’s the ‘value for money’ question. We make sure every dollar improves the asset lifecycle – from design, procurement, build and operation – by ensuring that data standards are met, and assets are managed as effectively as possible to benefit everyone.

“Government benefits because it has quality infrastructure asset networks in place and supports local employment during the build phase; operators benefit because teams can respond in real time to any issues by acting on data and information with quick, targeted decisions; and asset users – our everyday Australians – benefit by having access to hospitals, trains, busses and other critical public infrastructure assets to live their lives safely, conveniently and well.

“It’s a win, win, win... To get to this future digital state we need to specify tighter requirements, and fully understand the information asset stakeholders need to deliver truly digital projects and assets. Every asset’s potential is maximised in a digitised network of transparent, connected, smart assets. The future is filled with endless possibilities!”

David Alonso, Data and AI Partner, is equally confident about the future of Australia’s infrastructure. “Digital delivery is real, and doable, and offers big benefits. Like Rob said, we need to specify requirements appropriately. This means spending more time on designing and defining exactly what information is needed to build or add to a link in the infrastructure value-chain. How are these assets built and looked after? What data sets enable them to be part of transparent, connected, smart infrastructure networks?

“I’m genuinely excited about helping our clients tackle this challenge. We want to make sure that asset operators are enabled in their day-to-day jobs to maintain and operate assets effectively and efficiently, by digitising infrastructure projects so we create an interconnected network of assets to maximise their value to our communities.”

Paul says, “We need to make step changes in how we control and manage our existing assets. By understanding the asset base, and the asset management processes, we can inform how new assets are folded into the network. It’s about directing millions of dollars of investment in such a way that we avoid creating liabilities.”

David concludes, “If Government owns the infrastructure asset data – and brings those links together as a service – it will generate better amenity in and across the network. In the case of transport infrastructure this means managing any congestion, and giving citizens real choices about how they move across cities or the entire country, which in turn generates better returns on that infrastructure spend. We can help capture the right data and build transparent, connected, smart infrastructure networks.

“Data is the nerve centre to digitising infrastructure assets. We need to fix any data blind spots in networks and most importantly, mandate, create, manage data footprints in all future infrastructure designs so our infrastructure becomes smarter and better with each dollar. It’s starting to happen in pockets in both the private and public sectors, and it’s fantastic to see those lasting improvements being made with a clear mindset shift with innovative leaders.”

In future, we will see more individual capital asset projects being delivered faster and better, using data and digital, to become part of state and national networks. That’s the vision. An Australia where Government becomes the Google of infrastructure, making information available to users so they can make choices about how they live. A future where data shared by Government can help a citizen decide which hospital or school they want to go to, because they can see the queue in emergency is short, or the specialists they need are on call, or the subjects they want their kids to be taught are available in a certain school. A future where all Australians can make informed, quick decisions about how they live their lives.

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Our Deloitte infrastructure team sees the big picture – and starts with the end in mind, from returns for shareholders to the communities we live in. We have the right ideas, the right technology and the right expertise – across the infrastructure lifecycle. Whether its revitalising existing assets, rebuilding old into new or reimagining a new Australia; we’ll help you transform projects from today’s plans to tomorrow’s solutions. It starts now.

Get in touch

Luke Houghton

Luke Houghton

Partner, Financial advisory

Luke is the Global Infrastructure and Capital Projects Lead Partner, and the Asia Pacific and Australia Lead Partner Infrastructure and Capital Projects. This has included extensive experience in structuring project financing across a range of industries and procurement models. He is passionate about seeing infrastructure and services creating better economic and social outcomes for citizens. Luke is the Global Infrastructure and Capital Projects Lead Partner, and the Asia Pacific and Australia Lead Partner Infrastructure and Capital Projects.