Five Tech Trends in Public Works

The more government understands new smart technologies, the more we can reduce redundancy and wasted resources.

Source : Unsplash

May 27, 2022

Author : Patty Allen and Pratigya Dhali

New technologies permeate many facets of our life, making it possible to work in a streamlined manner and often lowering our carbon footprint. 

An array of new technologies will be used in the many projects launched through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding, which totals $1.2 trillion across the nation.

The American Public Works Association (APWA) has recently published its “Top 5 Tech Trends” to look out for in the coming year. While each appears distinct and independent on paper, breakthrough technologies are becoming more and more integrated across platforms.

Slade Engstrom, Vice President of TranSystems in Wichita, Kansas, explains that "Technology is getting blended into almost everything."

State and local government public works staff will need to be up-to-date on emerging technologies and their applications.

Intelligent Transportation Systems

With the need to improve America's transportation system and augment public safety, we have a lot to look forward to. 

San Diego-based Cubic Corporation, a public transportation and defense company, for example, is selling useful intelligent transportation technologies. In particular, Cubic's detection technology, GRIDSMART, an above-ground, single-camera detection system, that functions to monitor traffic flows, including pedestrians and bikers, so that traffic lights can adjust in reaction to the identified demand. 

Trafficware, another one of the company's product lines, is currently deployed in about 50,000 junctions across the United States. 

Another key part of putting together intelligent transportation has been the role of personal flying machines, or eVTOLS, that can take off, hover, take photos, and land with the help of electric power. 

Asset Management Technologies

Other increasingly important technological advancements are coming in asset management. By this we mean the developing, running, maintaining, and cost-effectively selling of assets.

Executive agencies must maintain effective inventory controls and accountability systems and survey property under their control to regularly identify any surplus property, according to Section 524 of Title 40 of the United States Code. An Asset Management System (AMS) is used to do this.

Expanding budgets of programs is also reflecting on a growing priority on municipal officials carrying out effective data collection and quality assurance.

As per New York City’s Open Data Portal, for instance, "Data is used in real-time to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, such as deciding where to send plows during a snowstorm or what streets to shut down during emergencies. Data is also used over months and years to address systemic problems, such as preparing for rising sea levels."

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) 

Through GIS data, transportation officials can quickly respond to various natural disasters or harsh weather conditions, sending out assistance and emergency crews. Geospatial technologies like location-based data services can help respond to rapidly changing circumstances. 

In addition, high-tech tools like LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and connected radar and camera systems can notify users about traffic routes, capture traffic photos, weather and highway conditions, and overall help in navigation.


Another technology that is becoming ubiquitous in major construction projects is Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART).

Through these technologies, users can harness data from connected devices to revolutionize business and operating models, enhancing decision making, generating more efficiency, increasing profitability, and introducing new revenue sources such as the IoT (Internet to Things) that can quickly digitize the physical world.

Public works officials will become more and more familiar with terms such as Smart traffic lights, smart lighting, smart highways, smart campuses, smart parking, and smart buildings. With digital twin technology, public works professionals are able to monitor the condition of their infrastructure without leaving the office.

The more government understands smart city technology, the more they can reduce redundancy and cut down on wasted resources.

Fleet Electrification

Pushing a goal of “net zero emissions” federal government officials are planning to replace the entire fleet of 650,000 government gas-guzzling vehicles with electric automobiles. 

Furthermore, plans are in the works for half of all new vehicles manufactured in the United States to be electric vehicles (EV) by 2030. So we can expect a lot more EV charging stations in the future.

According to a McKinsey study, a lack of dedicated charging infrastructure, vehicle financing, and the impact of EVs on fleet operations and change management will all need to be addressed.

Massive fleet electrification efforts will aim to save money and protect the climate, but it’s going to take a lot of investment to get there.  We here at Contractor News have previously covered how Oregon's Department of Transportation (ODOT) is building a network of EV charging stations across the state.

We have also discussed efforts by the Biden administration to promote what officials describe as clean manufacturing. 

Keep following Contractor News for more updates!



Category : Efficiency-Improving Technology Green Economy Green Construction Mobile Technology Tech Public Works

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