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A lack of stakeholder collaboration will threaten the technological transformation of underground utility management, say KPMG's Matt King and Salar Shemirani

Technology brings many benefits and advantages to underground asset management, but collaboration is crucial to its ultimate success

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A lack of stakeholder collaboration will threaten the technological transformation of underground utility management, say KPMG's Matt King and Salar Shemirani

Since Victorian times, vast arrays of disparate underground networks consisting of pipes and cables have been laid beneath our city streets.

 

Separate armies of contractors and workmen have come and gone, adding or removing services and leaving behind a legacy of incomplete, out-dated and non-existent asset records.

 

But thanks to the advancement in digital technologies, we are now at the cusp of revealing the 3D underworld that lies beneath our city streets in all its glory.

 

Sensors, robotics, artificial intelligence, low price data storage is making it possible to integrate the infrastructure of the past with that of the present and the future.

 

We are close to capturing a fully comprehensive and forensic view of all underground assets, and by doing so creating the potential for far greater efficiency and savings, whilst greatly reducing disruption and risk.

 

Central to the technology fulfilling its thrilling promise is the need for all stakeholders to work together, to adopt a collaborative mindset. Combining data from the full gamut of providers i.e. water, waste, energy and telcos onto a single platform would be transformational, providing all parties with a shared and transparent vista from which to plan and work.

 

This open sharing of information has immense benefits for all. It greatly reduces work costs such as maintenance, repairs and accidental damage for providers. It would also result in a significant decrease in the economic fall-out caused by the reduction in the amount of road works needed as well as the number of network failures.

 

It also means the lessening of road disruption, congestion and services for consumers. For example, information can be integrated with smart city traffic management systems for real time traffic management fed by data from multiple work sites.

 

Another huge benefit is that a dynamic shared 3D platform would radically transform underground maintenance from a reactive endeavour to one that is smart and predictive.

 

New conduits and assets would be able to take full advantage of latest detection technology containing micro sensors that can detect wear and strain, therefore, predicting and alerting associated stakeholders to faults and damage before they even occur.

 

Technology brings many benefits and advantages to underground asset management, but collaboration is crucial to its ultimate success. Reticence on the part of stakeholders to fully embrace this is a lost opportunity, and one that threatens the full potential of digital innovation and the facilitation of a smart city.

 

Salar Shemirani is a manager in the KPMG Corporate Finance business, where he specialises in asset management, business transformation, asset portfolio management, capital delivery and Fixed Asset Register alignment, advising both private and public sector clients in the UK and overseas. He is currently advising a leading FTSE 100 company on a global programme to unlock potential and drive value from their entire asset portfolio.

 

Matt King is a manager in the KPMG Asset Management Advisory business. He has a background in complex engineering procurement and development within the defence and transport sectors. He was recently the project manager of the Infrastructure National Needs Assessment working with the Institution of Civil Engineers and many other stakeholders to set out a vision for the nation’s infrastructure needs to 2050. Matt is currently programme director for a circa £4bn multi-year asset management business plan for a major regulated transport infrastructure owner.

 

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