A recent infographic, “Generation Z Characteristics: 5 infographics on the Gen Z lifestyle,” groups those born from 1995 to 2012 into Generation Z and summarizes the findings of Vision Critical’s study on the media habits of consumers. The study states, “As Gen Zs enter the workforce … companies can’t afford to act within conventional assumptions or generational frameworks.” This fact becomes even more apparent when you consider that Generation Z has never lived in a world without internet, without technology as the main driver of economic growth.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider Teletrac Navman believes this subset of people will have the biggest impact on the future of transportation technologies and should be encouraged to pursue related careers. The company set up a $3,000 scholarship contest open to students enrolled in an accredited American 2- or 4-year university or college and studying technology, software development, transportation or a related field. Applicants had the choice of submitting a video or written essay in response to one of two prompts:
- How has technology changed the transportation industry? How do you think it will continue to change it?
- How can your field of study impact the creation of smart cities?
“Teletrac Navman is committed to bringing the transportation and construction industries into the future through advanced technologies. There is no better way to invest in that vision than by supporting the next generation of visionaries," said Teletrac Navman Global Vice President of Marketing Rachel Trindade. “Right now, we’re looking at one of the most disruptive times in these industries with the dawn of smart cities, the increasing number of sensors on vehicles and heavy equipment, and commercial adoption of technologies that assist in operating vehicles. Therefore, in choosing the topic, we wanted to gauge what Generation Z predicts for the next wave of technological innovation in those two industries.”
As Teletrac Navman’s site points out, the technology of telematics is constantly evolving and altering the face of businesses in the transportation industry—along with many others, including construction. And the contest participants highlighted some insightful intersections, crossing the lines of both the personal vehicle and fleet sectors of transportation, as well as the architectural/design and building sides of smart city construction. Read on for some of the contest’s most insightful entry excerpts, as well as Trindade’s take on them.
“In smart cities, cars will be connected and driverless. They will run off applications and software that will need constant updating, and this will be very important for safety concerns. Software engineers will develop these applications to make routes for vehicles more efficient and safer. There are many applications that will be used in smart cities and software engineering is going to be crucial for the success. Networking, the rise of 5G wireless technology … will have the most substantial impact of the development of smart cites,” wrote Joseph Chansuolme.
“This technological innovation will allow for substantial increases in the speed of data transfer and will be an important aspect when considering autonomous vehicles. Software engineers will be needed to monitor and maintain these networks. To ensure data is flowing correctly and not causing issues, which could be fatal or tragic if left unmaintained in a smart city environment,” he continued.
Upon first reading, one may wonder how this will affect construction, but a deeper look reveals many ways, such as safer routes for construction fleets, faster telematics and project data sharing, safer equipment operation with less of the work done manually, and more. Smarter cities start with smarter construction.
The Internet of Things
“Cognitive science, my major of choice, examines the mind and its emergent structures. These structures, from neural networks to language to intuition, teach us not only about our internal thought processes, but provide a powerful framework to examine our interactions with the outside world. With enough data from distributed internet of things (IoT) sensors for various urban systems, smart city designers may discover insights that would have been impractical to find without sophisticated, accessible and 'intelligent' machine learning models,” wrote Max Krieger.
When asked what impressed her most about this essay, Trindade said, “What wasn’t lost on him [Kreiger], was how the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and machine learning is and will continue to play an integral role in smart cities—and he was able to adequately explain how cognitive science can be used to program AI. I enjoyed his ability to think outside the box in order to submit a relevant and poignant essay, even though his field of study fell outside of our recommended study areas. It showed real initiative for him to not only right the essay despite that, but also showed a true understanding of what we were looking for.”
We asked Trindade to sum up Krieger’s article, and she said, “Smart cities use IoT sensors and other forms of advanced technology, like machine learning, to connect urban infrastructures and derive valuable insights from data that can contribute to improving citizens’ lives and efficiency. By connecting autonomous vehicles to the local network, for example, city planners can dive deeper into traffic routing and link these patterns to stop lights to shorten overall drive time.”
She added, “Without the insights on weather, waste management, traffic and other data that a smart city’s advanced technology collects, many city planning decisions would be less informed and, thus, could be more costly and less environmentally efficient.”
“Majoring in the field of architecture, the creation of smart cities is a focus of my field and all fields of design. Smart city design includes the utilization of data collection to inform designers on how to manage assets and resources efficiently. Data collected for the use of architects can include data from citizens in surveys and monitoring, devices used by citizens, and assets of the city. This data can then be used to design for better management of space in many aspects of the smart city including: water supply, internet accessibility, traffic control, transportation systems, waste management, schools, libraries, parks, hospitals and other community services,” wrote Benjamin Ebbesmeyer.
The city Ebbesmeyer imagines sets the stage for closing the gap between the design and architecture side of construction and the implementation and building side. Like building information modeling (BIM), it brings all parties to the drawing board—undoubtedly a more effective method of construction.
“Any smart city revolves around the following areas: water management systems, infrastructure, transportation, energy, waste management and raw materials consumption. In all, chemical engineering is deeply involved,” wrote Caroline Orange.
She continued, “For example, at my school, Georgia Tech, researchers are working to turn Atlanta, Georgia, into a smart city. One of the sections of this transformation revolves around greener cement. According to their research, concrete, the world’s most widely used construction material, accounts for nearly 5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions generated by human activities.”
With infrastructure funding, government sanctions and materials price fluctuations on the mind of every construction professional, American-manufactured, greener infrastructure materials are a hope-inducing idea. “It’s important to note that a smart city, doesn’t have to be a science-fiction-like ‘city of the future.’ Many of the technologies that can make up a smart city exist and are being used today. And many more are already currently being conceptualized or in production. These students recognized that, which should prompt older generations to have optimism in this next generation of thoughtful digital natives. We’ll be good in hands,” assured Trindade.
“At the outset of this contest, we recognized that Generation Z will be the biggest influence on the future of transportation technology because they will be the first to be raised in a world that is truly technology driven. These scholarship responses only further reinforced this point. These students have collectively identified how data collection, energy efficiency, IoT sensors and asset management (to name a few) can optimize both the creation of smart cities and the livelihood of those within them,” asserted Trindade.
The power of telematics and other forms of data mining greatly improve the construction site and projects’ on- and off-road activities. And that power crosses over into many other sectors closely related to construction, allowing for a safer, more efficient, more sustainable living and working environment. As exemplified in Teletrac Navman’s essay contest, the newest generation to enter these workforces are finding ways to intersect in impactful and pioneering ways.
“The wide variety of areas of study and how these students articulately wrote about their potential impact—whether it be tangentially or directly related—on future development of technology that can be used in smart cities was enlightening. There is tremendous potential in Generation Z. If they go about their careers with the same determination and innovation to make things work for them using unique and creative approaches, they can truly change the face of our business environment and our planet,” said Trindade.
As Caroline Orange summed it up, “Technology is quickly developing in the transportation industry and will only continue to advance along with future workforces. The influence of Generation Z, [who is] compiling data from telematics and using it to enhance businesses in the transportation industry, will continue the advancement of smart cities.”
For more information, visit Teletrac Navman.