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Sam Ariaratnam Talks Infrastructure Mapping Smart Pipes and Utility Engineering on the Peggy Smedley Show

Thursday, June 1, 2017

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Dr. Samuel Ariaratnam, Ph.D., P.E., P.Eng, F.ASCE, the vice-chair of UESI's Pipeline Division was recently interviewed on The Peggy Smedley Show for his expertise on construction and utility engineering. In the segment, Dr. Ariaratnam, a professor and program chair of construction engineering at Arizona State University explains how current smart cities projects are simply adopting band aid solutions in reaction to failing infrastructure, but they must become more proactive. He discusses using the Internet of Things (IoT) along with sensors and mapping in underground infrastructure to help improve a city's bottom line, while managing a limited budget.

Peggy Smedley began the show with a discussion on hiring challenges and economic uncertainties that are hindering the construction industry. She further examined a generational gap that is failing to attract or entice younger workers, a wait-and-see approach currently being done toward infrastructure, and a way for contractors to manage an influx of data on the job.

Listen to the segment (11:30 minutes in length)

Excerpts from the live broadcast:

Peggy: "When we think of Internet of Things (IoT)-  there's a lot going on these days. Do you think we have seen an enhancement, a change in smart cities, utilities, construction? Where do you think all of this is really going right now?"

Sam:   "I think we have an understanding that our infrastructure systems are crumbling. We have to look at technologies and technological advancements, to try to find ways of monitoring the health of these (infrastructure) systems, and being more productive. It's the bottom end- the bottom line is what is important in construction and infrastructure. So the use of these technologies and IoT, and M to M are very critical, in collecting that data, and doing the data analytics, to better optimize the systems that we have right now. Now, whether it's the operational part of it or just looking at the deterioration part of it. I think we are seeing universities, where we are engaging, adopting more of these technologies into our curriculum to help future engineers- to enhance the use of these in their practices."

Peggy: "We see that we have to revamp our infrastructure. Our roads, our bridges, our whole underground systems- just has to be redone. Are we putting a band aid on it or are we really doing what we need to be doing?"

Sam: "I think we are doing band-aid solutions right now but we have to take a more proactive role. And to take a more proactive role in addressing our infrastructure- all of our infrastructure systems, we have to have more information and diagnose where the problems are. It's kind of like going to the doctor, right- if you catch the problem early on, it's much cheaper to mitigate the solution as opposed to when you have a disaster and collapse of our systems. I think the use of sensors and wireless technologies can play a really big role in monitoring (our systems). And we are talking a lot about it. A lot of research into, for example smart pipes- pipes that can self-diagnose itself, if they start to deteriorate and send out a warning signal to say: Hey, come take a look. To go and attack those problems before they become a catastrophe."

Peggy: "Is there some new technology that are being used in utilities industry, smart cities- something that we are using that has impressed you? Where if we take a look at this and start to implement some of the new technologies, we can get new information here. We look at what ASCE gave us- the report card grade of D+- we are all horrified of this grade. But this gives us hope that, we hope to only go up and not back to lower. We want to go positive- how do we go up to that B or an A (grade) for our infrastructure? So do you see any new technologies where you say- this gives us hope for our innovation and technology?"

Sam: "Our wireless technologies- we need more broadband, as we have so much more data and to be able to collect and analyze that data. In terms of technologies, a lot of it is in the research and development stage now. These smart pipes (and others)- I was in China recently and they are doing tunneling and construction there, where researchers are putting sensor technologies and it looks very promising but until we adopt it on a daily (wider scale), it's something we have to stride for in the future.

We have such a huge funding gap for our infrastructure- what we have in funding and what we have to spend or need to spend on our infrastructure, as the ASCE report card gave us the same grade of D in 2017- same grade as in 2013- we have to look at better ways spending our money to get our infrastructure up to livable standards, with fewer dollars available. Monitoring technologies (for) infrastructure health can take us to that level and spend the money in a smart way."

Sam concluded:

"Investing in these technologies will help our bottom line. Our business approach has to change in doing infrastructure. More modelling, data analytics, collecting data information. We have to do it in a smart way."

Dr. Samuel T. Ariaratnam is a Professor and Construction Engineering Program Chair in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.  He received his B.A.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Waterloo and his M.S. & Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  His educational and research interests lie in the area of trenchless construction methods with an emphasis on Horizontal Directional Drilling and Pipe Bursting.

Sam has published over 200 technical papers, holds four patents, and is active in numerous professional organizations.  He served on the North American Society for Trenchless Technology Board of Directors from 2001-2006.  Dr. Ariaratnam served as the Immediate Past Chairman of the International Society for Trenchless Technology.  Additionally, he is a co-author of the Horizontal Directional Drilling Good Practices Guidelines and the Pipe Bursting Good Practices. In 2013, Sam traveled to New Zealand after a magnitude of 7.1 earthquake hit near Christchurch to work with the city's rehabilitation team. Dr. Ariaratnam is a registered professional engineer in the State of Arizona and the Province of Ontario.

As the voice of IoT and connected devices in our Connected World, The Peggy Smedley Show, is an entertaining, innovative, fast-paced, yet fun, resource for listeners seeking to understand emerging technology for the digital life. The Peggy Smedley Show broadcasts live each Tuesday from 12 - 1 p.m. CT on and its weekly podcasts are downloadable through iHeartRadio and iTunes.