INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure is the foundation of nearly everything we do. The roads we drive on, the clean water we drink and the smartphones that keep us connected. All of it is tied together by infrastructure. It keeps us moving, but it’s also evolving rapidly.

New information and communications technologies like AI, 5G and the Internet of Things help us navigate the world, manage complex power grids, allow us to work from anywhere and so much more. In short, the very concept of infrastructure is always changing as new technologies build on those that came before.

Tomorrow, infrastructure will be even more connected.

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AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

Cities are in the midst of a mobility revolution fostered by vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connections that enable large-scale, ubiquitous, autonomous transportation. Simply put, autonomous vehicles will likely be connected to everything a vehicle could affect, and everything that could have an effect on the vehicle. That includes communicating with and processing data from other cars, traffic signals, traffic management systems and brand marketers, to name a few.

“The next generation of vehicles will be connected, autonomous, shared and electrical. V2X systems are critical to realize safety and systematic solutions.”

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Ming Liu IEEE Senior Member, IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Meet Ming

A SMARTER, SAFER WORLD

How might smartphones used by pedestrians or construction workers help avoid collisions?

“The safety of vulnerable road users (like pedestrians, cyclists, construction workers and emergency responders) is one of the biggest challenges in infrastructure — especially at intersections. The use of smartphone-based, vulnerable road-user data and vehicle communications at smart intersections, paired with cellular V2X and imaging sensors on cars and in traffic signals can greatly improve safety of vulnerable users. All of these devices can share information about all actors and help improve safety for everyone.”

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Bilin Aksun Guvenc IEEE Member Meet Bilin

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) can help lower the massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. To foster the transition to EVs at scale, a significant investment in the buildout of electric vehicle charging station networks will be required.

“When the auto was first introduced, one of the challenges was finding sources for fuel. The gas stations we are so used to seeing did not exist, and even if someone had fuel, its quality was unknown. This is the same challenge faced by EV owners.”

Bilin Aksun Guvenc headshot
Bilin Aksun Guvenc IEEE Member Meet Bilin

“When it comes to electric vehicle infrastructure, there will be the need for more charging stations that are dispersed in an optimal manner. There is also the need for algorithms that can run in your phone (cloud computing included) that will plan your trip including stops at charging locations.”

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Paul Kostek IEEE Senior Member, IEEE Aerospace & Electronics Systems Society, IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society Meet Paul

Vehicles may also serve a dual purpose — providing transportation but also storing energy to contribute to the grid during peak demand. In other words, cars themselves might one day be considered infrastructure.

“Intelligent coordination of charging these EVs will become an important aspect as we gradually make grid upgrades and install more generation to adapt to these new demands.”

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Kyri Baker IEEE Member, IEEE Power and Energy Society, IEEE Signal Processing Society Meet Kyri

DRONES

The technology of unmanned aerial vehicles has progressed enormously in recent years. Drones are not simply toys, but essential tools with a wide number of applications. Monitoring and inspection of existing infrastructure, such as bridges and pipelines, stand out as common uses.

“Drones are proving to be effective for surveillance and visualization in difficult-to-access environments. In these cases, there is a clear demand for an infrastructure that ensures greater accuracy in location and greater communication speed.”

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Paulo Eigi Miyagi IEEE Senior Member. IEEE Industrial Electronics Society Meet Paulo Eigi

They’re also increasingly being used as delivery vehicles. In the construction and renewable energy sectors they bring small parts to workers on high structures. In remote locations, they can be used for transporting emergency medications. Consumer drone delivery is also growing.

“One of the main challenges of aerial-drone delivery is safety, especially in crowded urban areas. Communication infrastructure, like 5G and satellite, is needed to facilitate timely action. Cybersecurity in this context is essential to avoid tampering with information (or with the drones themselves!)”

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Marcos Simplicio IEEE Member Meet Marcos

Next up in drone infrastructure: complex networks of charging stations and logistics centers, some of them autonomous and mobile.

“Aerial drone delivery service can be improved by having a distributed model of managing and handling them together.”

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Ramneek Kalra IEEE Member, IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Communications Society, IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology Meet Ramneek

INTERNET OF THINGS, ROBOTICS AND SUPPLY CHAIN

Many of the products we buy were made in a factory, and stored in a warehouse. Increasingly, these nodes on the supply chain are dominated by robotics and the internet of things, beginning with raw materials and ending with delivery to your front door.

Robots can help build products.

And pick them from shelves in a warehouse.

“IoT gives visibility of important points in the supply chain for physical goods. For example, IoT sensors can monitor the transportation and storage of food and medicine.”

Marcos Simplicio headshot
Marcos Simplicio IEEE Member Meet Marcos

But these tiny devices and sensors don’t operate independently, which means they need to be highly connected.

“IoT and robotics benefit from low latency data communication. In almost all cases these devices rely on computing in the cloud. The hardware is actually just a device that connects us to an artificial intelligence process in the cloud.”

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David Witkowski IEEE Senior Member, IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Meet David
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