Three different asset classes constitute real assets: buildings, grid-based infrastructure and natural resources. The assets subject to categorization along these classes differ substantially and therefore refer to different concepts when it comes to management and organizational strategies. For example, they display different degrees of asset specificity and risk of cascading effects. Infrastructures perform cascading effects, since different infrastructures – rail, road, power and others – interact functionally and are “seamlessly” interwoven by ICT.
Concepts play a key role in the management of real assets and therefore need to be appropriate. They are not stable, rather are a matter of co-evolutionary change with those things to which they refer. The network infrastructure industry has been taking part in conceptual development recently with regard to life-cycle thinking. One uncritical interpretation of the behaviour of grid-based infrastructure by means of life-cycle thinking calls for so-called “elegant management solutions” . However, recently, grid-based infrastructure is being accepted as a matter of systems dynamics and complexity management. Both are looking for “clumsy solutions”. Drivers for conceptual work on life-cycle thinking are a shared vision of becoming collective cognitive systems, the progress of semantic and cognitive technologies, and the advent of infrastructure as a standardized asset class.
Semantic technologies enable autonomous updates concerning concept development, including frameworks that show how individual concepts cross-level to inform management. Profession building for managing infrastructure assets includes so-called cognitive maps and tables for collective semantic coordination and links it to data mining processes. That means, infrastructure managers learn what, how and why concepts are hierarchically and logically linked in specific complex situations. For example, “life cycle” is a concept used by asset health management at the individual asset level (e.g. transformers). Furthermore, “life-cycle costing” is a concept used in corporate finance and “industry life cycle”, is a concept used by the Chief Technology Officer.
Concept development and standardized semantic coordination are key to collective pacing of human-machine interaction and to reaping the benefits of autonomous machines. Effectiveness and efficiency of infrastructure industry activities increase. There are no barriers – rather, the active involvement of the infrastructure management organizations increases motivation and understanding of the impact.
The way forward
Tables, cognitive maps and linkages relating concepts properly, including all concepts related to “life-cycle”, are published each year by the emerging new profession of managing infrastructure assets (Journal of Managing Infrastructure Assets). Software providers and profession leaders engage with each other (e.g. IBM, academic initiative) and with cognitive technologies – e.g. Watson – to transfer this knowledge to enable future infrastructure asset managers to employ concepts at appropriate levels of effective action. Linking concepts to appropriate levels of effective action causes macro-economic costs not yet identified.