On the 7th June 2022 came the news that construction technology company Causeway had acquired asset management software firm Yotta from Oxford Metrics for £52m.
Phil Brown, the chief executive of Causeway, said in a press release: “Process and data integration is essential for all local authority contracts executed by contractors. With our new combined offering, data will flow seamlessly between local authorities and their contractors in one single end-to-end solution, ensuring the needs of all stakeholders are met without compromise.”
Causeway has bought a lot of data in this deal. Since it was founded in 1986, Yotta has amassed 200 customers around the world and collected data on 35 million physical assets and services such as roads, street lighting and waste management.
A similar deal took place in December last year with technology company Trimble, which also works in the construction sector, buying AgileAssets which provides Software as a service (SaaS) for the asset management of transport infrastructure. AgileAssets, which is almost 30 years old, works for infrastructure asset owners who are responsible for 55% of state and highway roads in the US and 357,000 bridges.
The refurbishment of existing and ageing infrastructure is a fast-growing market in many developed economies. In the US, for instance, President Biden has earmarked £1.2 trillion through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the US, a good chunk of which is for rebuilding or repairing roads, bridges, rail and water infrastructure.
Although Brown’s promise to make data “flow seamlessly” sounds like a good thing to do, it certainly will not be easy. Data rarely flows from the construction to operation phases, although that was the original intention of BIM, partly because of the poor interoperability between software packages, also because operators aren’t set up to be able to exploit it.
However, all that data is going to be very useful for training up artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, something that Trimble talked about at the time of its purchase of AgileAssets. As well as being able to spot defects and maintenance requirements from lidar scans or videos, AI will be able to tell owners and contractors what they should be doing about it. And the more data there is to train the AI, the better the algorithms become.
National Highways is definitely looking for digital solutions to help it tackle its ageing infrastructure. In its approach to asset management, published last month (May 2022), the authority talks about using data and digital technology to improve predictive maintenance, inspections and monitoring for its 4,300 miles of road and over 20,000 structures.
A story about one software company buying another might not seem the most exciting news. But it’s really a story about what road and asset management and maintenance could look like in the future.
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