Next-Generation Infrastructure will Rely on Geospatial Technologies: This is How
The vision of sustainable economic development heavily relies on the pillars of resilient infrastructure, tying together production, supply, and consumer ecosystems. The Government of India plans on investing a major sum of $1.4 billion (over 1 lakh crore) in infrastructure planning, development, and management. A prime example is the PM Gati Shakti Master Plan that aims to streamline macro planning and micro implementation shouldered on seamless coordination and advanced information.
Geospatial technology is set to be a key driver for such a vision, in tandem with cutting-edge innovations in Building Information Modelling (BIM), Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Cloud, and Big Data.
How? Let’s elaborate.
Bringing About Much-Needed Digitalization
To plan, build, and manage infrastructure cost effectively, we need to view all these stages as well as their components connectedly. This is facilitated through digitalization of infrastructure, that enables entire projects to function as integrated systems. Geospatial technology is a key pillar of this digitalization process.
Geospatial data is critical for processing and visualization of project updates in real-time, besides establishing connectivity and data sharing between teams, whether remote or on-ground, instantaneously. At the same time, they are crucial for facilitating integration of multiple pieces of interrelated infrastructure on digital portals, so that decision makers understand which facet of infrastructure is located where, where the critical interdependencies lie, where there are or can be challenges.
Geospatial technology can be used across the full infrastructure lifecycle, thus helping optimize infrastructure investments, avoid inefficiency and waste. The Centre for Railway Information Systems, for instance, is using an integrated GIS database not just for capturing data on track assets and boundaries, but also for digitalized asset management, approvals, permissions, user identification, feedbacks on data usage, and more.
Higher Precision means Better Decisions
Thanks to advanced Geospatial technologies like high resolution satellite imagery (HRSI), LiDAR, GNSS and more, data collection has not only become faster but also more accurate. Precise coordinates of photo-identifiable locations can now be recorded at scale and in their true positions, and further processed to produce geospatially accurate maps. This can be superimposed with ground control to improve data accuracy further.
Combined with visualization and analytical tools like GIS, AI and ML, this technology is enabling decision makers to paint a clear, precise picture of the project in hand, improve assessments and minimize challenges. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, for instance, is using Geospatial technology for preparing Detailed Project Reports. These DPRs integrate precise geospatial and socioeconomic data critical for development models and implementation. MoRTH is also in process to adopt the largest ERP system in the Government of India using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to automate functions on the pillars of accurate geo-analytics.
GeoBIM, supported by 3D laser scanning, terrestrial photogrammetry, drone surveys, Augmented Reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT), is assisting in contextualising infrastructure projects to real-world settings, enhancing accuracies, and eliminating discrepancies and misses.
On the other hand, digital twins are helping bring to screens precise simulations of the real-world, helping not just obtain a holistic view of infrastructure projects but also manage them in real-time. Users can view projects comprehensively, as well as individual assets, processes, and systems at a time, address changes or challenges more proactively, and collaborate better. At the heart of this technology is the geospatial and physical data about assets, including static and dynamic performances, time-based changes, user experiences, defects, damages, and so on.
Beyond Construction: Geospatial for Infrastructure Monitoring
Besides thoughtfully coordinate infrastructure planning and construction, Geospatial technology also finds application in the later stages of monitoring and maintenance. 3D infrastructure modelling using precise location data can help better identify and resolve conflicts. Critical assets such as storm water drains, gas pipelines, tunnels, bridges, electrical grids, and the broadband, that cannot be effectively monitored manually, can be studied in detail using Geospatial tools.
The Kolkata Port, for instance, has over 4000 acres of land area under their jurisdiction, which is difficult to monitor regularly if done manually. For this purpose, Kolkata Port is developing a GIS-based land administration system where they would be feeding port mapping and encroachment monitoring data captured by drones. They are also using drones to monitor the 300 km long riverbanks apart from real estate assets.
Resilience for the Longer Term
Considering the unpredictable and increasingly alarming impact of climate change throughout the globe, it is important for next-generation infrastructure to be resilient and reliable. The defining characteristic of such infrastructure is that it is planned, designed, built, and operated in a way that it is already prepared for as well as flexible to changing climatic conditions. Only intelligent data derived from historical occurrences, present scenarios, and future estimates can make this possible.
Geospatial technologies are the key yet again. They help predict, diagnose and address existing and future challenges in this regard, by providing cities with accurate contextual data. Real-time data can be collected anytime, anywhere, 3D maps can be drawn up irrespective of the weather condition, and decision makers can evaluate both the issues and improvements over time for better choices.
Conclusion: Geospatial for Next-Generation Infrastructure
Geospatial has a crucial role to play when it comes to building the infrastructure of the future, and levels of government as well as private entities need to step forward for this reimagining. Presently, Geospatial technologies are largely limited to data visualization alone, leave alone implementation, management and monitoring of infrastructure. Infrastructure-related organizations also lack the awareness about advanced Geospatial tools or even their growing relevance in terms of cost and time savings, enhanced productivity, and resulting resilience.
The need of the hour is to promote wider adoption of the technology supported by policy and mandates, expert partnerships, on-ground trainings, and legislative incentives to new systems and technologies. The limited and slower adoption of Geospatial technologies with the Government and public sector can be boosted by increasing involvement of the private sector through more partnerships and alliances.