Stranger Than Fiction:
A Day In The Life Of Future Infrastructure


2 minute read
Veronica Siranosian Andrew Bui

From The Jetsons to Futurama, and Star Trek to Blade Runner, we’ve all seen imagined futures filled with flying, driverless cars, homes run by artificial intelligence (AI), and supersonic travel. As new technologies make these ideas a reality and revolutionize future infrastructure, Veronica Siranosian and Andrew Bui from the AECOM Ventures team look at some of the emerging innovative infrastructure trends and imagine a day in the life in 2030.

In a city in 2030, it’s morning. The built world around you has transformed in the last decade or so, reshaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and continues to evolve at unprecedented speed.

You’re asleep in your new environmentally efficient home, constructed more durably, precisely and cost-effectively than homes built just a few years ago, due in large part to 3D printing technologies. It’s time to get up.


Innovative infrastructure designed for you

Slowly, the blinds covering the solar windows in your bedroom begin to rise. It’s a winter morning, and the lighting and temperature controls within your home automatically respond to the elements outside.

Every fitting, fixture and feature in your home is designed to sense and react to your needs, helping you run your life as smoothly as possible. Some, such as your smart walls, are made of programmable materials that respond to external stimuli. Others are directed by sensors controlled by you with just a word or flick of the wrist.

This means no more stumbling around in the dark on cold mornings, searching for the light switch, or sweltering during hot summers. Now, whatever the time of day or year, the lighting, temperature and atmosphere in your home will always be just how you like it.

As you blink awake, you wave your hand and turn on two of the translucent screens close by. One brings up your virtual assistant, and you share some late-night thoughts you had to email to a colleague.

The other screen displays the morning’s headlines.

Managing water, sustaining life

For once, it’s good news. Climate change continues to increase the intensity and unpredictability of extreme weather events like floods and droughts. But the story today is that a flood forecasting and early warning system in the Kosi River Basin — one of the most vulnerable sites to flooding in India — will help to divert a disaster, protecting communities and saving thousands of lives during the heavy monsoon seasons in the coming years.

The system uses a web-based solution to analyze the 72-hour weather forecast, rainfall data and other real-time, hydro-meteorological information fed into mathematical models. When the risk of flooding is near or beyond danger levels, the system will automatically alert officials to prepare their emergency response efforts and communities’ defenses ahead of time.

Not a drop or watt wasted

At the same time, the world can’t afford for this excess water to go to waste. The demand for fresh water is rising as the global population grows. Farmers need it to boost food production, and power stations to generate energy. But we're draining resources faster than they can be replenished.

Many like you rely, in part, on systems built into your homes, offices and other facilities to capture, store and treat rainwater for everyday use. Some countries are exploring building ecosystems that will enable the transfer of flood water to storage reservoirs, so that it can be used by drought-hit areas elsewhere.

Tighter emissions regulations around the world are also driving innovation and investment in the treatment and reuse of water, aiming to reduce the need to extract it from rivers and other natural water resources.

In response, the water industry has worked to upgrade its infrastructure and employ solutions like IFAS (Integrated Fixed-Film Activated Sludge) technology — which enables them to intensify their treatment processes, using their existing assets, without increasing their costs or footprint.

Other advances include the use of microbubbles. Water companies pump air into wastewater, creating bubbles to rapidly break down sewage. This technology, which can be fitted to new and existing treatment plants, generates smaller bubbles to complete this purification process cheaper, faster and more sustainably than ever before.

And, most recently, the industry is drawing on microbubbles to strip out ammonia from drinking water and turn it directly into fertilizer, removing the need for previously costly additional stages.

Power stations, too, are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. More and more homes — including your own — are powered by super batteries that store and use energy generated via solar panels and other renewable solutions.

Flexible homes, healthier lives

As you step into the bathroom, you check your own fresh water stores and limit yourself to a three-minute shower — before getting dressed. When you’re finished, you grab that day’s outfit. It not only adapts to fit your body shape, but also helps you monitor your physical health and mental wellbeing, sending regular updates to your phone.

This morning’s message is that you need more vitamin C, and it offers suggestions for different juice recipes. You select one and send it to your smart juicer. It’s ready by the time you get to your kitchen, alongside a pot of freshly brewed coffee. You grab a cup and some breakfast.

A friend is due to visit this weekend. Before leaving, you rearrange your living space, moving the flexible internal walls of your home to create a spare bedroom, and add a request to make up a bed to your home droid’s list of chores for the day.

Space for living

Currently, your home is located in a central community hub, and every day the use of the space around you is evolving.

More people are relying on walking, biking, public transportation, and mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) providers — who operate fleets of autonomous electric vehicles — as faster, safer and cheaper alternatives to owning their own car. As a result, chunks of urban and curbside real estate once filled with vehicles are reclaimed for the community.

In fact, your new home is located in a former multi-story parking lot, now repurposed in record time using 3D printing technologies to provide access to sustainable, affordable homes for the city’s growing population, as well as a public gym and other local facilities.

On a smaller scale, others are adapting their old garages to be used as drop-in workspaces. On the days you don’t commute, you log into an app to check local availability for a temporary desk.

Today, you’re needed in the office.

Innovative infrastructure solutions to get around

You set off to your nearest mobility hub — this includes the options to take public transportation, or share a ride via a MaaS journey — your transit agency app alerts you that your usual multi-modal journey has changed, due to an all-day concert in the park. So, you acknowledge and confirm your travel preferences, and the app advises you of your new journey, which now includes a shared, electric, connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV).

Transport systems across the world are now using artificial intelligence (AI) and digital sensors to help analyze the millions of pieces of data being generated relating to demand, delays and constraint issues across their networks and respond with increased capacity, timetable changes and updates to passengers in real time.

It’s good to talk

These vehicles are available on demand and provide dynamic routing based on passenger origins and destinations in real time. It’s waiting to pick you up when you get to the hub.

The introduction of CAVs, combined with MaaS, improved “connected vehicle” services, shared vehicle use, and sustainable fuels will revolutionize transport. It will improve safety, ease congestion, improve air quality and increase social inclusion, mobility options and access.

In the past, traffic accidents, largely caused by human error, killed more than 1.2 million people globally every year and injured millions more.

Connected vehicle technologies allow transport systems, roads, infrastructure and smart devices to speak to, alert each other and process big data to enable connected vehicle services (such as smart routing, for example). Automated technologies enable vehicles to respond in real time to this and other information, without driver input, and avoid potential dangers, such as missed red lights, speeding vehicles and sudden stops, as well as congestion or travel issues.

These vehicles have also helped to increase the mobility of people unable to access or use traditional vehicles in the past, including older people, those with disabilities or those in more rural or lower-density communities that may have been underserved by fixed-route transit.

Charge as you go

Smart powered lanes help CAVs to go the distance, using wireless technology that enables these vehicles to charge their batteries as they drive on the road at full speed, making range anxiety a thing of the past.

Importantly, any excess energy generated through these journeys can be used to power people’s homes, workplaces and communities.

There are also sustainable fuel stations available that provide a network of electric charging stations and other fuels — where, in a matter of minutes, you can power up, grab a drink or even pick up parcels you’ve ordered online.

Future infrastructure that fixes itself

As you ride over a bridge, one of its smart sensors highlights a problem in the infrastructure, but it won’t slow you down now or in the future. In minutes, the bridge’s internal intelligence system alerts the maintenance team back at base to the fault, orders a replacement part to be 3D printed and delivered, and schedules the fix to be implemented.

Pods on Demand

You carry on unaware. As your CAV bus drops you off at the nearest mobility hub to your office, you complete the last part of your journey with a Pod on Demand (PoD). These next-generation PoDs are a sustainable, cheap and fast way to move around, helping people, businesses and communities to better connect with each other.

In some areas, the vehicles operate in narrower lanes, freeing up vital space for walking and enhanced community and transportation facilities, such as bike-share stations, boosting people’s travel options and freedom.

Your PoD moves seamlessly from road to sidewalk, directed by connected and autonomous technologies, navigating its way between pedestrians and other vehicles efficiently, safely and smoothly.

As you travel, you look out of the window and manage to make out a few of the skyscrapers’ roofs now working as high-rise farms, with cows and sheep grazing in the clouds.

The only way is down

When you get to work, however, you don’t go up. You go down. Urban real estate remains at a premium, driving many businesses to locate themselves in deep-basement offices. Your workspace is several floors in total, each one lower than the last, offering meeting rooms, restaurants and shops, as well as sleeping pods if you have to work late.

The energy-efficient trap lights, which run throughout the building, use photoluminescent pigments to capture and give out light. This, alongside a glass atrium, helps to keep the structure bright.

You find a desk and head to your first meeting. It’s a catch up with colleagues, who beam in from around the world as holograms. You plug in your translation earbuds and join the discussion with ease.

Express delivery

At midday, you receive a call from a supplier letting you know that the goods you ordered that morning will be delivered in 30 minutes by Hyperloop. This high-speed technology enables goods and passengers to be transported comfortably and seamlessly in pods capable of traveling at subsonic speeds through low-pressure tubes.

Crossing hundreds of miles in a matter of minutes, people and businesses are no longer limited by their location. The Hyperloop system works in conjunction with other transit and pod systems, helping to balance and drive economic growth across the country.

A virtual journey

After lunch, you and a colleague plan for a major upcoming building project. Using augmented reality (AR), you digitally recreate the planned finished building, using photorealistic textures, materials and lighting to take a walk through the project. Incorporating digital building information modeling (BIM) data, you’re able to highlight potential delays and issues, and contact other team members to discuss possible fixes — weeks before anyone steps on-site.

Catching a flight home

The afternoon passes quickly, and you stay a couple of extra hours to finish up some other projects. Tired, you head up to your office’s vertiport to take an aviation taxi. Over the last decade, the sky above you has become busier — increasingly populated by delivery drones, running alongside flying autonomous vehicles, and governed by strict air traffic control rules and initiatives such as designated flight lanes and tolls.

After a short wait, your taxi — a lightweight, electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft — arrives to fly you home ready for tomorrow.


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