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Public Works Trending Technologies

2019 Public Works Trending Technologies Bracket Challenge

Last year, after surveying the public works community, APWA introduced the Public Works Trending Technologies report. Again this year, we want YOU (the public works professionals) to be a part of selecting the 2019 Trending Technologies! Over a two-week period, we'll be asking the public to vote in a bracket-style challenge to help determine our finalists. Tell us what technologies you think will impact public works the most in 2019. APWA's technical committees have assisted in coming up with the 16 technologies you see below, and have also voted on them to determine a seeding for each. Now it's up to your votes to see where the upsets happen!

Interested in learning more about each technology? Scroll down for descriptions of each technology.


Bracket Challenge: Technology Descriptions

(#1) Drones: Maintenance and Inspection

Drones are the new way to complete recurring inspections of bridges and other infrastructure. Drones allow quicker and easier entry into hard-to-see locations, and inspections can be completed without impacting traffic with on-bridge trucks & traffic control.

(#2) Drones: Construction, Surveying, and Mapping
The ways we have handled construction, construction inspection and surveying are changing by using drones for all of these functions: pre-design construction surveys, construction inspection services, volume calculations, etc., using LIDAR and other technologies.

(#3) Connected Vehicles
According to USDOT, connected vehicle technology can change our transportation system as we know it by enabling safe, interoperable, networked wireless communication among vehicles, the infrastructure, and passengers’ personal communication devices. Connected vehicle technology will enable cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles to “talk” to each other with in-vehicle or aftermarket devices that continuously share important safety and mobility information. Connected vehicles can also use wireless communication to talk to traffic signals, work zones, toll booths, school zones, and other types of infrastructure.

(#4) Autonomous Vehicles
According to USDOT, Automated vehicles are those in which at least some aspect of a safety-critical control function (e.g., steering, throttle, or braking) occurs without direct driver input. Automated vehicles may be autonomous (i.e., use only vehicle sensors). Autonomous cars combine a variety of techniques, which include radar, lidar, GPS, and other technologies, to perceive their surroundings.

(#5) Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity includes the measures taken to protect a computer or computer system against unauthorized access or attack. Public works professionals will need to protect their infrastructure systems (SCADA, traffic control, building automation, etc.) from cyber attackers.

(#6) Smart Cities
The smart city sector is still in the "I’ll know it when I see it" phase, without a universally agreed definition. The Smart Cities Council defines a smart city as one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions.

(#7) Asset Management Apps
Open standards, along with the latest development technology, provide complete access to  data in an open architecture that is easy to integrate with your existing business systems using application program interfaces (APIs), which provides the ability to develop a host applications (of apps) that can be used for field personnel using mobile devices. Apps can be used for data collection, analysis and can provide public works departments with unique and specific applications to meet their business processes and other software integration issues.

(#8) GIS in Asset Management
Geographic information systems (GIS) store and manipulate geographical information on computers. GIS is a key part of asset management, and its data provides invaluable information to the asset management of an organization.

(#9) 2D Modeling: Floodplain
Most floodplain modeling is completed using 1D modeling, but there are limits to what it can do. FEMA is still trying to fit 2D modeling into their mapping framework, but that is expected to happen at some indefinite time within the next five years. 2D modeling opens up the ability to get more useful information for public works departments for normal flow conditions, but it is especially effective for flood conditions.

(#10) Augmented Reality
Suppose you could don special glasses or peer at a screen and be able to get information on all assets on site and know their type, age, etc., without reviewing plans. The interactive experience of augumented reality (AR) on a real-world environment offers numerous potential benefits for public works. Property lines could be seen (using images much like first down lines on TV); buried utilities could be located and their depth and thickness determined; the thickness of a pavement structure would be known; or walls might no longer hide studs. Increased safety, efficiency and better stewardship of resources could result.  AR might also reduce the need for intuitional knowledge of asset locations, which often results when an agency’s “institutional memory” retires or changes jobs.

(#11) Lidar
Lidar (also written LIDAR, LiDAR or LADAR) is a surveying technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser light. Although thought by some to be an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging, the term lidar was actually created as a portmanteau of "light" and "radar."  It is especially useful for surveying difficult to access items, or items that require a more complex surface (point cloud) versus a simple road cross-section (only 6-10 points every 50-100 feet).

(#12) Three Dimensional Plans
Three dimensional (3D) plans can be used to allow staff to see where utility conflicts are and be able to plan accordingly. This could include future improvements so one could visualize how to make the best decisions whether in design, construction or maintenance.

(#13) Open Data
Public reporting of data through online communication platforms/dashboards.  Data is freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish.

(#14) Fresh Water Supply Technologies
Water will be the primary future challenge to public works. With declining supplies of fresh water, exacerbated by increasing populations world-wide, our industry will be tasked with finding new ways to confront this problem.  This will need to include farming technology like hydroponics, conservation technology, and filtration and production advances.

(#15) Automated Training Simulation
Automated training simulations could be used for all types of equipment operations. This would allow unskilled operators to learn to fully handle heavy equipment at an agency yard without being on the equipment. This technology has been used successfully for airplanes, why not integrate it for all equipment and increase time bringing staff up to speed and identify those who may be better suited for different roles. Ancillary to that is the fact that many people just learn better visually.

(#16) Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices, vehicles, appliances, and other items embedded with electronics,  sensors,  and connectivity which enables these devices to connect and exchange data.

2018 Top Five Trending Technologies

APWA has established the Top Five Technologies survey and report as an annual service to members.  The term trending technologies was selected instead of emerging technologies 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. In December 2017, the American Public Works Association conducted an informal, online survey, asking members to name the single most important technology for public works professionals in 2018. Almost 900 of APWA Members responded to the Survey. The March Reporter includes an article about the Top 5 Technologies. 

1. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Mapping
2. Autonomous/Connected Vehicles and Equipment
3. Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)
4. Asset Management
5. Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/ Autonomous Vehicle Location (AVL) and Telematics 

The Top 5 Technologies will be included in APWA Education such as Click, Listen and Learns, Reporter Articles, and PWX Education Sessions. The Top 5 Technologies will be included in the PWX Expo. Look for the Top Tech logo on the exhibit floor and educational programming information to help you identify which programs and vendors will address one of the 2018 identified Top 5 Technologies.

APWA started a series of online panelist discussion webinars titled Talking Top Tech in June 2018. Watch previously recorded Talking Top Tech panelist discussions by clicking the desired title below, or find them in the APWA Members’ Library and on APWA’s YouTube Channel .

Join us live for the December 6th Talking Top Tech:  Global Positioning System (GPS)/Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)