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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information
 

Professor Mark Girolami, CSIC Academic Director, Sir Kirby Laing Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and Chief Scientist at The Alan Turing Institute features in the January issue of Civil Engineering Surveyor (CES) – the monthly journal of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, a CSIC partner.

The interview shines a light on the data revolution that engineering is experiencing and the speed, accuracy and volume of data that is the driving force for change. Bringing focus to the need for new ways of thinking in civil engineering, Abigail Tomkins, Managing Editor of CES, asks Professor Girolami about his career – and how a non-civil engineer ends up in civil engineering?

There is a climate clock ticking and that is really putting focus on changing behaviours…There are legal, contractual and social issues alongside the technical to be considered, but once the safety of humans and the opportunity of business collide, it’s amazing how regulation will get in place to deliver that promise Professor Mark Girolami, CSIC Academic Director 

“I wouldn’t say I’m a civil engineer, I work with civil engineers,” said Professor Girolami. “I also work with aeronautical engineers, chemical engineers, marine engineers, agricultural engineers, process engineers…My focus is as a statistician. I look at how the measurement of physical things – and socio-technical objects such as cities – can improve our ability to design, operate and control them.”

Considering the transformative potential of data-centric engineering and “our ability to make measurements and gather data in resolutions and volumes to accuracies that we’ve never had before”, Professor Girolami describes civil engineering and all its related fields as being “in the vanguard of experiencing the biggest impact and is one of the most exciting areas as far as the data-centric engineering revolution is concerned”.

Acknowledging the pioneering role CSIC research has played in developing and deploying sensor networks to create smart infrastructure solutions for industry, Professor Girolami said the insight gained from this work is starting to be felt: “We’re seeing large-scale operators of assets, such as Network Rail, deploying sensors on structural assets to create a digital representation of how they are operating and interacting with each other. We’re seeing sensors on whole networks of structures across whole systems to see the digital fingerprints of cities and measure their heartbeats.”

Discussing the potential of data as a tool to counter climate change, Professor Girolami said: “There is a climate clock ticking and that is really putting focus on changing behaviours…There are legal, contractual and social issues alongside the technical to be considered, but once the safety of humans and the opportunity of business collide, it’s amazing how regulation will get in place to deliver that promise.”

This issue of the CES also features an interview with the founders of CSIC, Professors Lord Robert Mair and Kenichi Soga who reflect on the beginnings of CSIC, the achievements of the past 10 years transforming infrastructure and construction and why the work of CSIC is crucial to the future. Professor Lord Mair said: "There is an urgent need to exploit digital technologies to establish a smart and sustainable infrastructure industry that enables society to flourish. Only by doing this can we reduce carbon, increase resilience and preserve resources – always the principal objectives of CSIC which, working in close collaboration with industry, still remain highly relevant today."

 

• Read the full interview with Professor Mark Girolami in Civil Engineering Surveyor here.

• Read the full interview with Professor Lord Robert Mair and Professor Kenichi Soga, Donald H. McLaughlin Professor in Mineral Engineering and a Chancellor's Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in Civil Engineering Surveyor here.

 

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