Try Different: The Road to Digital Infrastructure

Written by: Scott Marler, Executive Director, Iowa DOT and ITS America Digital Infrastructure Committee Co-Chair
Kurtis McBride, Co-Founder/CEO, Miovision and ITS America Digital Infrastructure Committee Co-Chair

In Iowa, we have a saying, “Don’t try harder, try different.” We may be able to achieve 10% greater results by trying harder, but what if we could achieve 10X greater results by approaching an issue from a different perspective.

Kurtis McBride (Miovision) and I have the honor of co-chairing the Digital Infrastructure committee for ITS America. We have discussed how we live in a world dominated by megatrends like electrification, de-carbonization, automation, and AI – yet within transportation systems there are persistent vulnerabilities with traffic safety, supply chain disruptions, bad weather, to name a few. They remind us that the pace at which our technology services and solutions are moving doesn’t match the increasing need for better road user experiences.

Let’s try different! Digital infrastructure is more than just the hardware, software, and systems that take our infrastructure to a digital layer, it’s really the digital ecosystem that unlocks the potential for physical infrastructure to operate at the highest levels. Digital infrastructure holds the promise of a safer, smarter, more sustainable and resilient future.  

The move toward digital infrastructure requires disruptive transformation. As a friend has said, “We are not going to build our way out of the challenges we face, we are going to SMART our way out of it.”  

Kurtis and I have discussed the road ahead for digital infrastructure, and we recognize there are several key steps:

  1. A bold, holistic vision – Public agencies and private companies need to focus their efforts on a shared future state by examining the problems we need to solve and the outcomes we need to achieve. A clear, unifying vision is critical for moving forward.
  2. Aggressive collaboration to deploy at scale – Pilots and testing of advanced technologies have been productive. To deploy at scale, we need to double down on our partnerships.  It will take all of us working together.
  3. System of system integrations – We all have our silos of excellence. The digital ecosystem of the future will need better ways to manage/share/protect data, ubiquitous communications, and more geospatially enabled data sets. In short, we need to combine everything.
  4. Case studies and scenarios help us individualize digital infrastructure and focus our efforts. Using scenarios, we can better unpack issues like truck parking, work zones, optimized routing, advanced notification for drivers, signal prioritization, and many others.  

We want the entire transportation network to be safe, accessible, efficient, and sustainable. We want a system that is environmentally responsible and cost effective, enabling safe mobility and promoting economic opportunities both today and tomorrow. If we do this well, digital infrastructure will help us level up in ways we have only begun to imagine.