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Public Works Trending Technologies

2021 Public Works Top Trending Technologies Bracket Challenge

We want YOU—the public works professionals—to choose the 2021 Top Trending Technologies in Public Works! Show us what technologies you think will impact public works the most in 2021 by voting in our bracket challenge that includes 16 technologies. Now it's up to your votes to decide the top technologies.


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1. Small Cell/5G
5G/small cell technology is the latest leap forward for wireless communications. It has been embraced by all major telecommunications providers with network installations both domestic and international.

2. Integration of Technologies
The integration of technologies is necessary for public works departments to help achieve desired services levels. In addition, this integration allows for greater accountability, reporting, and efficiency.

3. Automated/Connected Vehicles Technologies
Automated and connected vehicles are a developing technology that will shape the future of the traveling public. Data collected from the vehicles can help inform city planners in planning city infrastructure.

4. Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity and infrastructure protection are paramount to ensure the safety and security of the community. Critical asset network components include industrial production systems, mass people movement systems, operations and maintenance systems, and data logger and monitoring devices (SCADA, sensors and information management systems, etc.).

5. Asset Management Technologies
Asset management technologies can enhance how assets are used, leading to better-informed decisions on investments to deliver asset information, system interfaces, and data modeling.

6. Virtual Public Engagement Technologies
Virtual public engagement technologies include discovering the top technologies and best practices to engage the public in virtual meetings and community notifications to gain support and build consensus.

7. Drone/UAS Technology
Unmanned aircraft systems/drones can be used for several public works operations including grounds/turf and building inspections, construction site surveying, drainage inspections, and real-time documentation of data, information, and events.

8. Technology for Field Crews
Portable devices such as tablets, laptop computers, and smartphones increase efficiency for field crews in the work order system, infrastructure assessments, emergency management reporting, etc. Tools for infrastructure assessments (sidewalks, pipelines, storm sewer outfalls, manholes, etc.) have become more important for field crews as well.

9. Open Government Technologies
Open government technologies include systems that share city/county data and performance metrics to the public and technology that enables community members to participate in government, education, and the economy.

10. Geographic Information Systems
GIS technology is an ever-expanding platform for visual imagery and mapping of public works assets.

11. Building Automation Management Systems
Building automation management systems include video to assist in building security, centralized control of building operations, health screening technologies, air quality management systems, and enhanced safety measures for pandemic response.

12. Smart Technologies
Cities incorporate big data into operations, enabling more cost-effective planning and economic development. Sensors detect and monitor various aspects of infrastructure.

13. Biomonitoring Technology for Wastewater
Wastewater samples have been used to detect poliovirus, and recently COVID-19, as new studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus is detectable in wastewater. This can provide an early warning for public works departments and their communities.

14. Route Optimization Technologies
Route optimization technologies cover the ability to dispatch, route, and optimize winter weather vehicles, utility customer service technicians, solid waste management services, or public transit systems.

15. Traffic Technologies
Traffic technologies help inform the community, create accountability, increase efficiency, and reduce driver frustration. Systems such as advanced detection (pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle), advanced algorithms, communication systems, and traffic/train monitoring systems aid in achieving these goals.

16. Alternative Fuels
Public works vehicles are becoming more diverse in fuel systems (electric batteries, hydrogen, biofuels, etc.). There may also be opportunities for public works departments to procure new fuel sources in a solid waste environment or wastewater plant environment.

Top Tech Toolbox Now Available!

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Toolbox


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, was one of APWA’s Top Trending Technologies in Public Works for 2018. APWA has created a variety of educational offerings about UAS and compiled them in this toolbox.

Access the toolbox >

Call for Volunteers: APWA Top Tech 2020 Work Groups

Do you have experience with one of APWA’s 2020 Top 5 Trending Technologies in Public Works? Here’s your opportunity to share your knowledge. Join a work group today to help inform and educate our members on these important advances in the industry.

  • Automated/Connected Vehicles
  • Waste to Resource Technology
  • Technology for Field Crews Including GIS
  • Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure
  • 3D Technologies

Please contact Rita Cassida at to join a Top Tech Work Group.

Talking Top Tech

In support of APWA's Top Tech initiative, the Talking Top Tech webinar series kicked off in June 2018. This series consists of a panel discussion format and focuses on each of the identified top technologies through different lenses such as Public Works, Consultants, Industry, Policy and Legislation, and International.

Registration for the 2020 Talking Top Tech Programs is now available:

Previous Talking Top Tech programs are listed below and available in the Members’ Library and on YouTube.





In an age where technology advances at an exponential pace, public works departments are constantly finding new ways to bring safety, economy, sustainability, and service to their communities. To help our members stay in-the-know on which industry-changing endeavors are on the horizon (or in some cases, already here), APWA began the Top 5 Trending Technologies survey and report in September 2018.

The term trending technologies was selected because as technologies are implemented in public works, large cities may start using the technology and then, several years later, medium and then small size cities. Although a technology may not be emerging by the time it reached the small cities, it is still trending.

Each year, the APWA Engineering and Technology Committee’s Trending Technology Subcommittee gathers suggestions and selects the 16 trending technologies that will impact public works in the coming year. Each contender is selected because of its projected impact on the public sector—across all departments and at all levels. Those 16 trending technologies then go toe-to-toe in an NCAA-style bracket challenge, where we open the voting up to the public to result in the Trending Technologies for the year. Thanks to your votes, we’re able to use the Top 5 Trending Technologies to develop programs such as Click, Listen & Learns, Reporter articles, PWX Education Sessions, and more.