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WGI’s 2024 Predictions for the Infrastructure Industry

WGI’s experts from multiple divisions share their thoughts and predictions in terms of what we can expect to see in our industry in 2024 and beyond.

By Nicholas D. Evans, Chief Innovation Officer, WGI

As we enter 2024, it’s clear that we are no longer living in a world of “business as usual.” Perhaps “business as disrupted” is a better term to describe how we’re living in a world where disruption is now the norm rather than the exception.

According to our CEO, David Wantman, whether it’s the consequences of monetary inflation, the strains caused by political divisions, threats stemming from weather events, or the somber reality of international conflicts and wars, we are living through a time fraught with very real challenges extending beyond our realm of professional services. Every day, our clients are tasked with making critical decisions in the allocation of their human and financial resources.

Given this global backdrop, we asked a selection of WGI leaders and subject matter experts across our divisions for their thoughts and predictions in terms of what we can expect to see in our industry in 2024 and beyond.

Overall, we saw a continuation of strategic themes from last year’s predictions related to innovation, sustainability, resilience, and adaptability as digital transformation continues to transform our industry, but some interesting new approaches to harness both the seismic shifts, such as Generative AI as well as the smaller rumblings from other essential tech enablers. All these approaches are being fueled by human creativity and ingenuity which is helping our industry maximize productivity and efficiency across our multitude of processes and workflows.

“As we collaborate to shape the future, the continued fusion of infrastructure and technology ushers in a new era for the AEC industry, where smart engineering practices and sustainable technology and innovation open the door to a digitally empowered, agile, adaptive, and resilient world.”
david wantman WGI
David Wantman, PE
CEO

In our predictions, we’re continuing to see a fusion of infrastructure and technology, with AI leading what is undoubtedly a seismic shift in how work gets done. Our Associates note that AI isn’t coming for your job, but those who embrace GenAI and AI/ML tools successfully are.

With the turbulent market conditions as well as the time gap between AI ideation and implementation, our Associates also see plenty of opportunity for industry professionals to pursue incremental innovation to support team member productivity, automate workflows, and enhance data accessibility.

The democratization of not just AI technology but even the democratization of data itself – such as geospatial data – will open up hundreds of use cases for our industry but will complicate matters at the same time. Innovation teams will need to build their knowledge and skill sets around risk management to carefully thread the needle between innovation and the myriad new risks that these transformational technologies expose.

The good news here is that engineers are risk-averse by nature so will be well-equipped to innovate with powerful tech, but in a way that always puts safety first.

"AI is not only an exponential technological advance; it's a paradigm shift in how we solve business challenges and opportunities in the AEC industry, how we accelerate innovation, and how we architect a future where intelligence, ingenuity, and technology collaborate seamlessly for unprecedented progress."
Gregory Sauter, PE
WGI President

According to our recent primary research, in conjunction with Columbia Universities’ Global Leaders in Construction Management (GLCM), some of the key technology enablers seen as having the most significant business impact in 2024 include AI/ML (50%), 3D printing (11%), AR/VR (8%), digital twins (8%), autonomous vehicles and drones (6%), and predictive analytics (6%). (Look out for more details on this in our upcoming whitepaper, “Strategic Technology Trends for the Infrastructure Industry in 2024”, coming out later this quarter).

Most interestingly, as per last year, these technology trends and enablers are being combined and fused together to deliver innovative outcomes that aid industry insights and decision making as our Associates share here:

The future of construction may be as simple as hitting “PRINT”

"Speed in on-site construction and efficient fabrication is making its way to the forefront of our industry in 2024, which can only be supported by the highest quality of design through coordination and modeling. Fabrication shortens the duration needed for materials to be manufactured and assembled on site, which requires more designers to have a hands-on skillset for modeling accurately and conversion of 3D information for production purposes. As software evolves for 3D modeling, so will the software for machinery output in order to effectively close the communication gap between the two. Architects will be at the forefront of this evolution with an understanding of newly available software, visualizing the entirety of the project to the smallest constructable element, and even beginning to visualize construction assembly through available software to tailor our designs accordingly."
Sierra Eades, AIA
Architect

Collaborations in flood forecasting will usher in new capabilities such as integrated economic engines providing dollar-value flood damage forecasts

“Predicting flooding at the street and structure level several days into the future has developed a foothold in 2023. We will see collaborations in 2024 that combine flood forecasting technology with other seemingly unrelated technologies, resulting in new types of forecasting tools. For example, there are economic engines that can automate flood damage estimates based on static and synthetic flood levels (e.g., the 100-year event). Combining real-time flood forecasting with an economic engine such as this could be used to forecast dollar-value flood damages about to occur due to an imminent major storm system. Mitigative measures, such as changing stormwater pumping operations, can be evaluated before the storm arrives not only in terms of reduced flooding impacts, but also dollars saved because of those actions.”
Pete Singhofen, PE
Founder & CTO, Streamline Technologies

Technology integration will revolutionize data collection and analysis

“Technology integration will continue to influence infrastructure decision-making by revolutionizing data collection and analysis in 2024. Using remote data collection tools, more data can be collected and analyzed, offering the ability to monitor existing infrastructure and model potential changes. These changes could include efforts to optimize existing infrastructure or improvements to existing assets. This data-driven approach enables proactive planning, analysis of existing assets, and optimal resource allocation for improvements, empowering decision-makers to prioritize projects effectively and develop smarter systems to monitor potential needs.”
Michael Bils, AICP
Mobility Planner

The emergence of more open-source data will enhance data accessibility in planning circles

“Heading into 2024, the demand for enhanced data accessibility within planning circles is set to rise. Traditionally, government bodies, at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels, have been central hubs for planning-related data. These entities store publicly available data crucial for planning studies. However, with the continuous advancement of spatial technology, novel data collection sources, exemplified by platforms like Urban SDK, have become integral. While these new sources enrich the availability of on-demand data, a notable challenge has emerged. Valuable and pertinent data is currently confined behind paid subscriptions, posing obstacles to the analysis process. My bold prediction for 2024 anticipates a significant shift, foreseeing the emergence of more open-source data as a response to the existing data pay-wall.” As software evolves for 3D modeling, so will the software for machinery output in order to effectively close the communication gap between the two. Architects will be at the forefront of this evolution with an understanding of newly available software, visualizing the entirety of the project to the smallest constructable element, and even beginning to visualize construction assembly through available software to tailor our designs accordingly."
Tyler Tornese
Planner

Automation projects will help bridge the time gap between AI ideation and implementation

“As industries widely embrace the AI trend (which is undoubtedly crucial and warrants significant attention, funding, and effort), there's a noticeable time gap between the ideation and the implementation of these powerful software solutions. This interim period will foster a spike in the development of smaller automation tools utilizing computational design to address the escalating demand for efficiency within the constantly evolving AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry. Although computational design itself is not a new trend, the current emphasis on automation has prompted more companies to actively explore and integrate these innovative solutions into their workflows.”
Ayse Heckel, PE
Innovation Engineer

Creative use of existing technology will accelerate innovation

“While generative AI and quantum computing are set to be powerful forces, 2024 will also see creative use of existing technology. In the mobility world, mobility and parking technology companies are finding new applications within their own platforms. For example Parkmobile is helping cities create permit systems by leveraging and white labeling promo codes. While autonomous vehicles are progressing more slowly than anticipated, shuttles with drivers are on the rise. Also dubbed microtransit, companies such as Circuit and Via user Uber-like software to offer on-demand and fixed route circulators to replace short car trips with small scale transit. In 2024, we’ll see more from big and small tech.”
Lisa Nisenson
Vice President, New Mobility and Connected Communities

AI isn’t coming for your job, but those who embrace GenAI and AI/ML tools successfully, are

“GenAI and LLMs were the talk of 2023. In 2024, expect to see massive proliferation of GenAI into all kinds of services from daily use tools, like word editors and email to design software and data analytics. Savvy infrastructure developers will translate interest to project selection criteria for firms able to showcase their ability to use these tools solve problems and provide additional value. AI isn’t coming for your job, but those who embrace GenAI and AI/ML tools successfully, are.”
Marc Remmert, PE
Director, MEP Engineering

Market fluctuations provide continual incentives for a technological focus on team member productivity

“Continued market fluctuations in the AEC industry provides an opportunity to new disruption and adaptation of technology to increase the productivity of our critical team members. There are a number of cutting edge opportunities to utilize internal software development or external software to provide rapid prototyping of initial phases of due diligence and site planning. These solutions have the opportunity to accelerate the timeline from concept to core engineering design by shortening the time to complete the analysis of multiple paths to a complete solution.”
Russel Yeager, PE
VP, Civil Engineering

The democratization of geospatial data will further complicate the issue of individual privacy

“The widespread use of facial and object detection, stylization, and landmark detection technologies has raised concerns about the privacy of individuals. With the increasing use of these technologies in everyday devices such as phones, traffic cameras, and home and business security systems, images are being captured and transferred at an unprecedented rate. In 2024, the democratization of geospatial datasets will further complicate the issue of privacy, as it becomes easier for AI engines to mine data from these datasets. The use of algorithmic facial blurring, object alteration, and synthetic image replacement will be paths for protection and will become crucial to minimizing the level of data mining that could be attained by AI engines to protect the privacy of individuals.”
Scott Jones, LIST
Operations Manager

The year of photorealistic visualization

“2023 saw the emergence of Gaussian Splatting (GaSp), the latest iteration of photogrammetry techniques, and it is fast becoming the go-to for real-time “2D imagery to 3D modelling” protocols. GaSp is expected to bring a photorealism to “spatial computing”. In 2024, GaSp data, in combination with Stereoscopic mobile tracking, will further improve the overall functionality of “embodied AI” (i.e., where images, videos, or text are replaced with egocentric perceptions of an environment, like humans, as the content from which A.I. learns). This will open the door to A.I. mobile devices that can recognize the physicality of a location as well as identify what the individual entities in that environment are. All of which will lead to huge leaps in the tracking and functionality of AR and will also slash the cost of reality capture. Continued evolution of this technology will ultimately usher in the integration of hyper-realistic modeling data into the Computer Aided Design (CAD) process.”
Bob Howell
Visualization Manager

Transforming how our world is envisioned, designed, and experienced

The future of the infrastructure industry depends on innovative thought leaders influencing our industry to adopt the latest cutting-edge technologies and practices in order to remain flexible.

WGI is dedicated to embracing innovation, technology, and empowering our associates to transform how our world is envisioned, designed, and experienced.

If you would like to have a conversation with one of WGI’s thought leaders to discuss any of the topics covered in this article, feel free to contact us.

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