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How an ‘Alexa’ for infrastructure is emerging

How an ‘Alexa’ for infrastructure is emerging

Author: First published in Open Access Government magazine

We’ve seen what a single source of truth and collaborative data sharing can do on a major programme like the A14 but how might this be applied across a number of programmes, a framework or even an enterprise? Here we discuss how setting up the right data sharing platform can help transform programme or business performance and meet carbon reduction targets.


You see siloed data, We see harmonised data

Saving time, money and driving continuous improvement on any capital delivery, upgrade or maintenance programme is front of mind for owners and operators of infrastructure at a national and local level. Not only is it important to have data at your fingertips to understand friction points but infrastructure schemes generate vast amounts of data that could provide intelligence to improve efficiency and drive productivity on other current or future projects.


How data federation improves performance and lowers costs

It has been shown for example that when asset management metrics are standardised and benchmarked to capture and transfer efficiencies there can be a 54% reduction in unplanned labour and construction plant downtime. Productivity gain due to this reduction can be as much as 37% and the wider benefits across an asset base through real time data will reduce carbon impact, improve GDP and help a workforce to be more effective.

The right data platform can also provide more than 70% additional access to siloed data to make better, more informed decisions and increase accuracy of business cases to invest effectively in improving business performance. Organisations that have a higher ability to load and analyse data in real time can also save 57% in audit costs and reduce data storage and IT costs by up to 64%, also reducing their operational carbon footprint.


What’s the solution for the infrastructure sector?

These above are just some of the benefits already being realised by a new cloud-based digital platform created by Costain with key partners SAP and Keytree (a Deloitte company). The Intelligent Infrastructure Control Centre (IICC) harmonises the vast quantities of intelligence that UK infrastructure projects generate to drive greater programme, framework and enterprise performance. Alongside wider digital technology and advisory services that have evolved from decades of delivering complex infrastructure programmes, it’s one of the ways Costain is helping clients to optimise design, delivery and operation of their physical and digital infrastructure.

Tim Embley, director of research, innovation and development at Costain explains: “Many of our clients across all the sectors we work in, from energy, defence, water to transportation, face challenges with having consistent and accurate data on critical factors such as commercial, carbon, safety, social value, as well as complete cost transparency.”

“The IICC joins up multiple legacy and live systems across a programme or portfolio of assets to federate data into standardised, easy to use visualisations in real time. 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. It empowers key decision makers with full data transparency and the ability to track whether the desired outcome was achieved.

“Where data isn’t easily available, it uses artificial intelligence to deep mine the existing data to manufacture data so you can look at scenarios and predict outcomes. This helps reduce the unknowns and risks, thereby increasing delivery certainty and control of costs.”


The Alexa factor

How much carbon have I emitted through fleet this week? How many of my projects are overspent? Where do I need to intervene soonest to achieve my targets for this quarter?

Built on the SAP Business Technology Platform designed to handle masses of data in sectors such as manufacturing and finance, the IICC is 3600 times faster than a traditional cloud-based data lake and answers queries such as these in less than one second. Information is instantaneous, insight is actionable.


What are the benefits from the IICC?

In addition to the benefits highlighted above, one example of where the IICC is currently providing faster and more accurate information flows is for the ‘Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy (TIES) Living Lab’ . Here it’s helping to empower members of the consortium such as Transport for London (TfL), East West Rail Company, HS2 and Network Rail, with:

  • Harmonised data control that expedites the decision-making process
  • A single source of truth to ensure portfolio performance clarity
  • A simplified IT landscape using in-memory virtualisation reducing the need for data warehousing
  • Continuity and intelligence integrated across a group of stakeholder systems for a range of users at all levels
  • Protection against loss of data held in supply chains
  • Real-time transparency of resources.

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.


Where do I start with setting up the right data platform?

Knowing where to start can be daunting for organisations starting their data unification journey. Costain’s IICC implementation expert Charlie Davies says: “You need to start with the right fundamentals and standards as well as an eye to the future. Data gathering and architecture exercises don’t need to be expensive to make it useable down the line. If a data platform is IT systems agnostic, like the IICC, it can be adopted into an existing IT landscape keeping costs low and ROI high.

“Collaboration is key. All stakeholders need to be onboard before you embark on the journey. But empowering people to use technology in meaningful ways helps to show them their piece in the entire puzzle. People give their time because it fixes something they have seen as a problem forever.”

Involving the right experts to help upskill your team with digital literacy also helps. This is why Costain offers the IICC in different ways and at different scales. These range from simply buying the platform specified for a few data sources and users to tackle particular issues such as carbon reduction or project cost overruns to full bespoke platform development and implementation advisory services. What data gets collated and tracked is decided collaboratively with clients.


Intelligence for improving lives and the planet

Applying different lenses to data can deliver insight not just to improve the bottom line but it can also drive big agenda points around social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Infrastructure intelligence such as the IICC can deliver, offers a way to manage operations that will improve people’s lives as well as save money, time and the planet.


A deeper dive on how the IICC is helping reduce carbon through federating data on telematics and plant idling to follow.

Find out more by emailing [email protected] to speak to a Costain expert.