Catching the next waves

As is customary at the end of the year, we are dusting off our crystal ball and taking a look at what trends and themes are likely to shape the asset class in the years to come. Unsurprisingly, technology and its impact looms large on this year’s Future of Infrastructure special, with data – its collection, application, and, crucially, protection – casting an especially large shadow.

Big data is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but as you can see from our feature starting on p. 34, it is very much a thing of the now. Managers, investors, and procuring authorities are actively making use of as much data as they can get their hands on to optimise their assets, rule on capex decisions and know their customers better. As Moody’s John Medina puts it, somewhat spookily: “Everyone’s  being tracked.”

If you want to get a better sense of how managers are employing new technologies – including the use of big data – turn to p. 36 for our interview with Duncan Symonds, European director of asset management for IFM Investors. From airports to toll roads, technology is substantially changing how IFM approaches asset management. But as Symonds puts it, most of this change – if anticipated – can easily be turned into an opportunity.

And anticipation is very much the name of the game, particularly when it comes to hot topic cybersecurity. Put simply, infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to high-profile hacks, many of which can have disastrous consequences. Starting on p. 42, we present a handy ‘how-to’ guide for managers and investors that don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of a hack attack. Spoiler: most cyber-attacks are down to human error, so making sure your employees are aware of what to click and what not to click on can save you a world of grief later.

If you had told us a few years ago that renewable energy – including nascent technologies like offshore wind – would quickly be on the cusp of a zero-subsidy reality, we would’ve told you that was a very futuristic concept indeed. Yet here we are, much quicker than expected, as Deutsche Bank’s Global Transaction Banking team tell us on p. 40, in their overview of how clean energy is being financed.

Elsewhere, we take a look at the growing potential of Asia, on p. 44. We have been writing about Asian LPs marching westwards for years, but you’re now increasingly seeing Western managers and investors marching eastwards, in a sign that the region is truly emerging as one of the most exciting infrastructure markets of tomorrow.

Last but not least, InstarAGF chief executive Gregory J. Smith, on p. 46, tackles many of the above themes in the context of urbanisation, cities that are intelligently designed for the transportation of goods and people and where infrastructure is adapted to the challenges of the future, be they sustainable energy production or the impacts of climate change.