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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information

The Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) hosted a timely industry event at the Royal Academy of Engineering, London on 15 March 2016 to foster discussion among key decision makers on the future of smart infrastructure and construction.

CSIC RAEng industry event

Delegates at CSIC industry event at the Royal Academy of Engineering


The Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) hosted a timely industry event to foster discussion among key decision makers on the future of smart infrastructure and construction.

The invited group of attendees included business leaders, policy advisors, asset owners and managers, strategists and academics. The aim of the event was to focus industry-wide attention on the current tipping point in the history and future of our ageing infrastructure, discussing questions including: How do we use emerging technologies to achieve sustainability in construction and infrastructure? How do we unlock opportunity and address institutional and structural challenges? How to we develop a business case for the industry adoption of smart solutions? How can the UK lead the digital revolution in infrastructure?



Industry figures presented a cross-section of example case studies to demonstrate the practical value and benefits of smart solutions to a wider audience.

Phil Holland, Structures Project Manager, Laing O’Rourke – How does your bridge feel?

Working with CSIC on Staffordshire Alliance Programme to instrument two bridges with fibre optic sensors to monitor construction and provide train-loading data when the bridges are operational.

Key benefits: Data from the comprehensive monitoring of the rail bridges enables the asset owner to plan accurately for maintenance programme; provides the asset owner with a health passport for the structure; enables the structure to be reassessed against any new loading requirements. The system will give Network Rail data to understand the in-service performance of the ‘Standard Design Catalogue’ structures.

Chris Dulake, formerly Chief Engineer Crossrail – Value of monitoring sprayed concrete lining in tunnels using distributed fibre optic sensors.

We need a better understanding of what we are building so that our industry can be leaner and more efficient. Crossrail wanted to know the additional stresses to sprayed concrete lining (SCL) at cross-passage constructions (Liverpool Street Station, Moorgate shaft) and worked with CSIC to installed distributed fibre optic (FO) sensors to collect new data. The site was an opportunity to create a construction laboratory.

Key benefits: Distributed FO can give invaluable strain data that no other sensors can give; potential huge savings in SCL construction through improved data in design; systematic use on all Crossrail 2 stations could improve design and construction efficiency as the project progresses from the first station to the eleventh station. To realise most value, the industry needs to specify this approach at the start of projects.

Andrew Bell, Chief Engineer Cementation Skanska – The role of distributed sensors in underground infrastructure. A contractor’s perspective.

Why focus on underground structure? Problems with sub-structure works are usually responsible for half of all significant project delays and are costly when they go wrong. It’s nearly impossible to see, touch or reach these structures so sensors are of critical importance. Skanska has been working with CSIC for more than five years to instrument piles and foundations with distributed FO sensors and the company is now at the commercial deployment phase. Successful case studies include the Bevis Marks project to re-use an existing basement structure. CemOptics, a safer alternative to integrity testing, is now being used commercially by Skanska at the new Battersea Station.

Key benefits: Improvement in staff safety and wellbeing; provision of industry level training in use of new technology; accelerated change. Cementation Skanska has developed a full, independent commercial capability to deliver distributed FO sensors.

Mark Enzer, Group Practice Manager Mott Macdonald - Smart Infrastructure – why it has to be the future.

The emerging abundance of digital technology is inevitably leading to a digital revolution. Now is the time for a shift in our thinking as an industry. Infrastructure has always been an information-driven industry. BIM is just the beginning; information management is the key; if we use BIM for asset management we will derive more value from our existing infrastructure assets. Creating and extracting better information about our assets will lead us to smart infrastructure – where our where physical and digital infrastructure assets are fully integrated for maximum value. There is great potential for industry growth in this area, but industry needs a common language and definition of smart infrastructure as a basis for dialogue. This is being proposed in a joint paper being developed by a number of CSIC’s partners.  

Key benefits: Adding value at each stage enables better and faster decision making; improved outcome per (whole life) £ for the ultimate customers.


Speakers from outside the infrastructure sector

Michael Cervanka, Head of Strategic Research Centre, Rolls-Royce plc – Digitally enabled service revolution

Evolution of expectations has driven the aviation industry – reliability and performance of the engine is critical. In order to support its engines on a global fleet across the product lifecycle, Rolls-Royce changed its model from providing a scheduled or reactive service plan to providing continuous monitoring and condition-based maintenance (planned and predictable). This required a change of business model and put focus on the value of gathering monitoring data over the whole life of the engine. Joint ventures with academic research and other companies made this transition possible. The current business model emerged gradually, starting with a range of service packages underpinned by digital capabilities, and letting the data guide decisions and service models.

Key benefits: Rolls-Royce now offers customers a service model that the company could not have foreseen ten years ago; industry access to high-level academic thinking has been of benefit to Rolls-Royce. Working with the Rolls-Royce brand is attractive to researchers – it’s a win-win model.

Professor John Haine, Chairman of the Internet of Things (IoT) Security Foundation – Securing smart infrastructure.

Smart solutions add complexity and risk as well as value to infrastructure. Security is required to prevent unauthorised physical and virtual access to infrastructure. This is highlighted by the possibility of hackers accessing infrastructure controls, with potential catastrophic consequences. Who is responsible for security? This is a complex question, as there is a whole spectrum of players. Everyone in the IoT supply chain needs processes in place to ensure the responsibility is taken and a chain of trust secured. Resilience is key: what will I do when, not if, my infrastructure is compromised? The Security Foundation is trying to put into place an auditable self-service scheme – designed from the start – to ensure when infrastructure is built it is with security in mind.   


Smart infrastructure - key considerations

The digital revolution is coming and innovation is available to drive the necessary change to modernise our infrastructure industry. But there is pressing need for collaboration and knowledge transfer at every level in order to succeed and, ultimately, secure the UK’s position as world-leader in smart infrastructure in the next five years. (Jennifer Schooling, Director of CSIC)

How do we, as an industry, take all we know and make it biddable? This is a genuine opportunity and tipping point to derive value over the long term. (Andrew Wolstenholme, CEO of Crossrail and Chair of event)

Questions posed:

• what are the key drivers behind investment in smart infrastructure?

• what are the key challenges in taking forward smart infrastructure?

• what needs to be done to support the sector to drive the take-up of new ideas? (Andrew Wolstenholme, CEO of Crossrail and Chair of event)

Points from panel and open floor discussion

Large-scale infrastructure has the problem of a fragmented supply chain – the industry needs to find ways to be able to think beyond mere survival and consider how to move the industry (currently not fit for purpose) forward.
CSIC has found enthusiastic individuals to work with, but organisations need to come on board. If the right people in an organisation can be identified, then information can be unlocked to progress.
Organisations struggle to understand how technology in infrastructure delivers value. There is a need to understand how the world looks to an infrastructure provider and then seek to provide solutions.
How can we ‘capitalise’ better understanding of design? A juicy value proposition may provide a good incentive.
Evidence is required in order to change. Need a high-profile piece of smart infrastructure to be delivered with smart solutions at the heart of it, to demonstrate value. Then we can deal with the hardest challenge – procurement.
Biggest challenge is procurement – at the point of procurement the client is not asking for the smart case. This needs to change.

Take-home message: The digital revolution is coming – the infrastructure industry could lead or follow. Which will it be?

To view videos of this event please follow the links below to YouTube 

Part 1

Part 2