Back To Blog
BIM & Design

7 Critical & Emerging Technologies Relevant to Construction & Infrastructure

June 24, 2024

In February 2024, the White House updated its list of Critical and Emerging Technologies, a regular report that comes via the National Science and Technology Council. While the list is often focused on increasing national security, the committee also prioritizes technology that expands economic prosperity and defends the American way of life. The technologies highlighted in this report can serve as a guide to where the country will be investing over the next decade and the technological advancements the country will prioritize. Per the report itself, the list can act as a resource to:

  • Inform future efforts that promote U.S. technological leadership

  • Cooperate with allies and partners to advance shared technological advances

  • Develop, design, and govern technologies that yield tangible benefits for society

  • Develop measures that respond to security threats

As infrastructure professionals charged with improving and supporting the American public, it’s that third bullet that is most relevant to our industry - though certainly, the increase in digital construction technology makes cybersecurity an important priority. In this article, we’ll highlight seven technologies featured in the latest update of this list that we can expect to have a tangible impact on the infrastructure construction industry - and as such, provide tangible benefits to society.

Advanced Computing

In a recent blog, we spoke about the importance of data governance and quality control and how these practices are necessary for other advanced computing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to thrive. The White House specifically calls out high-performance data storage centers and advanced cloud services in the Advanced Computing section, two technology areas that are becoming increasingly relevant to the infrastructure industry. As cloud platforms like AASHTOWare Project and Appia grow more advanced and capable of enhanced data collection through GIS tools, the data infrastructure will need to grow alongside them to store and process said data.

Additionally, the White House also calls out the rise of new data analysis techniques. As state and local agencies hone their data analysis skills to ensure they are getting the most value out of their contracts and staying ahead of the rising costs of labor and materials, it’s easy to see the financial impact that the growing field of data analysis can have on the industry. To explore this further, feel free to check out the whitepaper we produced on the value of cost-based estimation methodologies.

Advanced Engineering Materials

It is obvious that Advanced Engineering Materials are highly relevant to the infrastructure industry. In the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of advanced materials like high-performance concrete to increase structural integrity, shape-memory alloys to external stimuli and can increase resilience, and even eco-friendly materials like recycled plastic and bamboo as engineers deal with rising environmental concerns.

The inclusion of these materials in this list is no surprise, but it’s interesting to note that the White House also mentions “novel and emerging techniques for material property characterization and lifecycle assessment.” That inclusion falls in line with the growing industry focus on transportation lifecycle management. More and more DOTs are implementing solutions like AASHTOWare Project Construction & Materials so they can closely track material usage and ultimately feed that data into an asset management system. You can read more about how state agencies are capturing digital as-builts to support post-construction activities here.

Advanced and Networked Sensing and Signature Management

This area mostly deals with military technology, as signature management itself is a military-adjacent term for detecting the electromagnetic signatures of assets and then modifying them to reduce detection. However, the White House document notes the rise of sensing technology across multiple infrastructure-relevant sectors, including energy, manufacturing, building, and environmental. This advanced sensing technology will continue the gradual march towards making the jobsite part of the Internet of Things (IoT), the network of physical objects that transmit data about their status to a central database.

Of course, no technology will be more important to sensing and transmitting this information than GIS, or as the list refers to it, “geophysical sensing.” We’re already seeing a large number of partnerships between companies like Trimble and Esri to connect GNSS hardware with Esri’s ArcGIS platform for mapping geo-enabled construction data. Our own partnership with Esri aims to connect field data back to ArcGIS Field Maps to establish a record of geo-enabled, auditable digital as-builts. You can read more about the benefits of geo-enabling your construction data here.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Unsurprisingly, the White House views AI as such a critical technology that it lists it twice, once in the Advanced Computing section and again in its own section later on. AI has already inserted itself into our lives in ways that we might consider both unwarranted and unwanted. Google, once the country’s preeminent search engine, is now borderline unusable thanks to their failed implementation of AI. It’s everywhere, for better and for worse - but how will it impact the infrastructure industry?

Our team has been exploring the ways that the industry can prepare for AI and various usage scenarios once it has been properly implemented. As previously mentioned, the quality of organizational data will be paramount to successful implementation. From our recent blog on the subject:

When data quality meets the standard for its intended use, it ensures that the data used for reporting, decision-making, and analysis is trustworthy and reliable. High data quality ensures that information is suitable for analysis, decision-making, risk management, reporting, and other data-driven activities.

The opportunity for artificial intelligence to improve projects within these systems will allow project owners to better understand how to manage risks better, provide better safety measures, and increase sustainability and compliance for projects.

As far as use cases go, Adam Dawidowicz explored how AI could assist in clarifying compensable delays by, for example, using machine learning to dive into “time elapsed on items versus proposed.” You can read more about his proposed process here. It’s also easy to picture how generative content AI could automate simple tasks like writing up a daily report or a change order based on the data captured. Of all the technologies listed here, AI may have the greatest impact on the infrastructure industry and its workforce.

Clean Energy Generation and Storage

When the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed in 2021, there were a number of sustainability-focused measures, including $39 billion for improved transit, $65 billion for clean energy transmission, $7.5 billion for a network of Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers, and more. It’s not surprising, then, that clean energy and sustainability remain a federal priority. Specific technologies called out in the updated list include nuclear energy systems, energy storage, grid integration technologies, and carbon management technologies, among others.

We’ve seen the industry impacts of this investment in the rise of sustainable project funding over the last four years. As of late 2023, over $11 billion has been invested into infrastructure projects like solar and wind farms and environmental remediation. These investments have a trickle-down effect of sorts - a new fleet of EV buses may lead to new projects for EV-specific bus lanes, which may then lead to a need to move or reformat sidewalks and bike lanes. As sustainability investments increase, the need for project data tracking will be just as important as it is for things like AI use and asset management. Future projects may be audited not just for DBE compliance or contractor disputes, but also for their adherence to environmental standards.

Data Privacy, Data Security, and Cybersecurity Technologies

In the last calendar year, the number of cyberattacks rose by 74%. Equally important is where those attacks have been targeted - often critical infrastructure such as fuel pipelines are the focal point for bad actors. Asset management isn’t just about tracking materials and the effects of weather anymore - cybersecurity practices are increasingly paramount to how the infrastructure industry protects its assets.

As an e-bidding provider that deals with large quantities of confidential information, Infotech is well-versed on modern cybersecurity strategies to prevent unwanted intrusions. Our specific technologies include things like Digital IDs to verify identity, moving and at-rest encryption, and regular automated updates to patch vulnerabilities, but our list of common sense cybersecurity tactics may be more universally helpful:

  • Treat cyberattacks like natural disasters

  • Invest in training your employees to identify bad actors

  • Incorporate multi-factor authentication into everything you do

  • Rely on cloud hosting providers with top notch security teams

  • Have a recovery plan in place

  • Conduct audits on a regular basis

To dive even deeper into the world of cybersecurity, check out the podcast we did on industry best practices with our internal experts.

Highly Automated, Autonomous, and Uncrewed Systems (UxS), and Robotics

The last technology we’re going to highlight is covered vaguely in the White House list, with bullet points that simply call out things like “air” and “space.” It’s the last two bullets that we expect to have the greatest impact on our industry - “supporting digital infrastructure, including High Definition maps” and “autonomous command and control.” We’ve already discussed the importance of digital mapping via GIS technology, so let’s focus on two other aspects of this technology: productivity and safety.

The implementation of autonomous technology has already begun in bits and pieces. e-Ticketing, for example, was an FHWA initiative several years ago and is now implemented on many job sites. The ability to automatically collect information from a digital ticket vs. going out to collect a physical, paper ticket has already had a large impact on safety in an industry where people are injured or killed every year by truck accidents. Imagine a world where not only is the information capture process autonomous - the truck itself is.

Entire job sites could one day operate with human oversight, but not direct operation - uncrewed vehicles and robotics to perform work, drones on pre-programmed routes to conduct inspections, and all information flowing seamlessly through interoperable cloud software. It’s a distant future, but one we may certainly be heading towards.

If you’re struggling to navigate all this new technology and the associated impacts, we’re here to help. As a 40+ year construction solutions provider, we’ve navigated industry change time and time again, from the first CAD software to new trends like MALD and AI. Feel free to reach out anytime to connect with us about your technology needs and goals.


Nate Binder
Digital Marketing Manager
A proud graduate of Florida State University, Nate works with subject matter experts and sales professionals to produce targeted marketing collateral.