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After the usual gorge on tech that is CES 2018 and the many tech predictions from experts across the industry for 2018, here are 12 areas I believe will develop this year for the built environment.


1. Smart Energy – This year the public will become more aware of smart energy. This is due to levels of investment, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, policy and regulation change which is providing large scale better storage solutions, continually cheaper renewable sources, demand and growth of EV’s. As well as increased ability to generate and resell.

2. Transport / Mobility Disruption – This will become mainstream; with greater investment, technology (hardware and software), public interest, policy acceptance and regulatory shift. The snowball is rolling down the hill and gathering momentum. All aspects of transport will be touched from infrastructure, modes, operators, users and payments.

3. Convergence of IoT +5G + AI – Asset management, operators and supply chain will recognise the impact that the convergence of these technologies will have on the management, design and operation of our built assets. IoT will generate the datasets, 5G will allow instantaneous communications and AI will get to work on the huge datasets to automate management and provide design feedback and recommendations.

4. Immersive Technologies –The hardware is still not widespread and cardboard box attachments to high end smartphones aren’t going to attract many. However immersive technology will become common place in consultation for new developments and infrastructure.  Look out for the Vive or Oculus Rift at your nearest consultation event or public library with augmented reality becoming more dominant as wearables develop.

5. Insights for Free –  Given the UK’s leadership on Open Data and the growing amounts of data that is generated during projects, we’ll start to see more start-ups, activist groups, advocates and some incumbents offering insight and intelligence for free.

 6. Digital Ecosystems – More organisations, start-ups and incumbents will be exploring and developing digital platforms to integrate and embed themselves in the infrastructure supply chains.  Primarily relating to operation but increasingly the design process, often offering insights for free.

7. Cybersecurity – GDPR in 2018 and increasing cybersecurity breaches during 2017, will make everyone that bit more cautious in applying technology in 2018.  The smart city and transportation sector will need to come fully armed with a response on security.

 8. 5G test beds – We’ll see some really interesting use cases from the recent UK bid for funds and the successful ones will rapidly develop to be applied elsewhere, possibly in healthcare and regeneration zones.

9. Data Collection – Drone capture and data processing will become the expected norm for large projects with the wealth of data, opportunity for feature classification and algorithm development. Increase in data aggregation from embedded sensors in vehicles and phones. With resistance from the ‘opt out’ movement ramping up.

10. Digital as a regeneration catalyst- Given the growth of digital business and clusters, regeneration agencies have seen the value of attracting and providing the services needed. As a result we’ll see many more cities and clusters promote their USP’s and develop their digital infrastructure to attract business. A challenge will be ensuring the planning system can capture the opportunities in embedded tech into these places for a bottom up smart approach.

11. Optimum Infrastructure – ‘The build it and they will come’ approach to development of property and infrastructure has passed its peak and we are now entering an era of optimising infrastructure and assets to get the most from what we already have through better digital, management.

12.  Digital Twins – The much talked about creation of digital twins, underpinned by BIM will start to gain real traction across many sectors as assets become digitised and eventually connected through IoT.  It’s happening in manufacturing already and this is becoming a focus in managed estates, health, education and retail.

I’ll explore each of these claims in more depth each month during 2018 and provide a wrap up in December when I can see how accurate these predictions were or weren't.

This blog was written by Andy Porter, WSP Director for Smart Consulting