Infrastructure is typically finances by a combination of municipal bonds and public-private partnerships. Recently, President Biden added a third revenue stream to the table: paying for infrastructure by raising taxes on top income brackets and corporations.
What if there was another, untapped revenue source to help pay for our bridges and roads: data.
For example, sensors on roads and bridges can monitor deterioration as well as the impacts of trucking. These insights could be used to price a fee structure for logistics companies based on how they reduce lifetime use or maintenance requirements. Models like this are being explored in the Netherlands and Germany. Rather than charge tolls, public agencies in those nations are considering farming out bridge portfolios to asset management companies that are collecting anonymized data on traffic volume, truck weights and structural health. In turn, those companies can sell that data in derivative markets to materials suppliers, insurance companies, marketing firms and hedge fund investors.
Increasingly, our roads and bridges, drinking water and sewer pipelines, buildings, ports and hospitals are outfitted with sensors and other data collection systems. An urban internet of things is emerging, and its data have the potential to generate an incredible amount of added value. We can harness this technology to deliver insights that will make financing more efficient and to develop the next generation of public-private partnerships.
Sensors can pull data on water flow, traffic congestion, air pollution and more—all of which can be processed to illuminate how to deliver services more efficiently and cost-effectively. The data are attractive to insurance companies because they help to hedge risk, and to investors because the information can give rise to new revenue streams, or create value well beyond the infrastructure itself.