Publication - Independent report

Implications of future technological trends on Scotland's infrastructure: independent report

Published: 22 Aug 2019

Overview of the range of technology trends potentially impacting on infrastructure in Scotland and examples of their uses and implications.

Implications of future technological trends on Scotland's infrastructure: independent report
Technology Definitions

Technology Definitions

3D Printing

The term 3D printing covers a variety of processes in which material is joined or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object. When used at an industrial scale, the term additive manufacturing may be used synonymously. One of the key advantages of 3D printing is the ability to produce very complex shapes or geometries.

5 G

A 5G network is a next-generation mobile technology, with a software-defined flexible system of both micro and macro cells, and is expected to handle more data with billions of connected devices, providing global businesses and economies with unprecedented insights and abilities to drive radical change.

Advanced Manufacturing

Advanced Manufacturing is a combination of information technologies (IoT, Big Data, Analytics, AI,) integrated with high-performance and automated (Robotics and AI) production systems capable of furnishing a mix of products in small or large volumes with both the efficiency of mass production and the flexibility of custom manufacturing in order to respond quickly to customer demands.

Advanced Materials

Advanced materials include high strength lightweight metals, alloys, polymers, nanomaterials, ceramics, and composites. Lightweight metals such as titanium, aluminium, and beryllium with superior properties offer energy efficient solutions thereby reducing carbon emissions. Innovative multifunctional smart polymers are capable of offering resistance to corrosion, abrasion, and mechanical wear. Composites are created by embedding fibrous materials in a polymer matrix to produce a strong but light material. All these materials are characterized with functional features, as well as modifications to existing materials to obtain superior performance, lightweighting, self-repairing capabilities, and improved mechanical performance.

Advanced Sensors

Advanced sensing technologies is a group of next-gen sensing technologies comprising interactive touch- based/sophisticated touchless sensing mechanisms. These mechanisms are integrated with novel instrumentation and information systems used to detect, perform, and control operational tasks.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence enables automated decision making with very high accuracy and speed based on data driven intelligence, coupled with self-learning abilities. Machine Learning is a core technology seen as a significant subset of AI. It allows machines to analyse data, learn, and predict outcomes.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real-world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. Virtual reality (VR) is an experience taking place within a computer generated reality of immersive environments can be similar to or completely different from the real world.

Autonomous Vehicles

An autonomous car is a driverless/self-driving car, which is capable of sensing the environment and navigating without human input. Autonomous cars are equipped to detect their surroundings using a combination of technologies such as Radar, Laser lights, GPS, odometry, artificial intelligence, and computer vision among others.

Big Data

Big Data refers to a set of data management tools, appliances and techniques for effective analysis of huge amounts of data sets towards deriving intelligence on business operations and customer interactions.


Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology (DLT), where every node in the distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) computer network maintains its own record of a transaction, leading to the elimination of the requirement for a trusted third party. Blockchain is a distributed database that maintains records in the form of blocks. Each block maintains a timestamp that is linked to the previous block. Once recorded, data in blocks cannot be altered or tampered with. The entire process is completed in real time by eliminating the need for any central authority or a third-party financial institution to verify the transactions.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a collection of many technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing, compressing and injecting greenhouse gases into deep underground rock formations. This prevents the entry of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and prevents the escalation of climate change and global warming.

Circular Economy

A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles: Design out waste and pollution; Keep products and materials in use; Regenerate natural system.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user. The term is generally used to describe data centres available to many users over the Internet. Recent advancements in cloud computing technology offer almost all the major computing resources, such as infrastructure, storage, platforms and so on to be used as services, collectively known as everything-as-a-service (XaaS).

Connected Living

The rise in the number of smart watches, smartphones, wearables, and other sensor-based devices in an IoT environment is enabling the utilization of various connected services. These devices are becoming the ‘remote controls’ of our lives, acting as hubs for sensor-based health monitoring products and fitness apps, as well as controlling our homes and work tasks.

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity is the protection of internet-connected systems, including hardware, software and data, from cyberattacks. In a computing context, security comprises cybersecurity and physical security -- both are used by enterprises to protect against unauthorised access to data centres and other computerised systems

Digital Health

Digital health enhances the quality of care received by patients, which enables them to live a more independent lifestyle within the comforts of their home, office, hospital, or other healthcare facilities. The trend is more aligned towards proactive care, where patients (irrespective of their age or condition) are independently monitored, and manage appropriate interventions whenever needed. Digital health comprises of various sub-sectors, namely e- health, m-health, telehealth, health information technology, and telemedicine.

Digital Twin

A digital twin is a digital model or replica of a physical asset, product, process or system that allows a digital footprint of key assets or products from design and development through the end of the product lifecycle. It’s basically a convergence of the virtual and physical world that helps businesses to detect physical issues sooner, predict outcomes more accurately, and build better products.

Distributed Generation

Distributed generation (DG) produces energy by utilizing various decentralised conventional (combined heat and power [CHP], genset) and renewable (solar photovoltaic [PV], wind turbines) energy sources. DG involves energy sources often placed closer to the consumers, ranging between a few kilowatts and approximately 10 to 50 MW, and dispersed geographically.


The Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) defines small unmanned aircraft (SUA) as "any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight." [1]

Typically, an unmanned aircraft (drone) will be controlled by a ground-based remote pilot, with a communications system linking the two. This is collectively referred to as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). A drone is also sometimes referred to as a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS). However, as technology progresses, drones are becoming increasingly automated, and may one day become fully autonomous without the need for a remote pilot.

Edge Computing

Edge computing brings computer data storage closer to the location where it is needed. Computation is largely or completely performed on distributed device nodes. Applications, data and computing power is closer to the user.

Electric Vehicles

An electric vehicle, also called an EV, uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.

Energy Storage

Energy storage is the capture of energy produced at one time for use at a later time. A device that stores energy is generally called an accumulator or battery.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)

Intelligent transport system (ITS) describes technology and communications used to improve efficiency and safety for transport users. It includes monitoring equipment such as CCTV and traffic detection sensors, speed control and queue management via gantry signals; and informing travellers using Variable Message Signs (VMS), Web services, smartphone apps, news feeds, social media, and radio broadcasts. It also encompasses the growing field of connected and autonomous vehicles, which are expected to have significant benefits for road safety and in transforming how real- time traffic monitoring and analysis can be carried out.

Intelligent Waste Systems

An intelligent waste management system implemented combines the utilization of waste containers with the technology of fill- level sensors. This results in smart bins that can monitor the fill levels of waste containers for more efficient waste collection.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT) connects multiple smart devices and objects to a single network over the Internet. It allows data exchange in a secure manner, providing opportunity for deeper and comprehensive analytical insights. This interconnection will help generate new business models and produce new revenue streams for organisations. Reduction in overall cost through improved asset utilisation, process efficiencies, and productivity is driving adoption across businesses. There are three layers that typically make up an IoT device namely, a physical layer, a network layer and an application layer. The physical layer includes the hardware (e.g., sensors and networking gear), the network layer includes the data collected by the physical layer to different devices, and the application layer includes protocols and interfaces that devices use for communication.

Li Fi

Li-Fi is a wireless optical networking technology leveraging light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for data transmission.


Nanotechnology ("nanotech") is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage, microfabrication, molecular engineering, etc. This enables the development of new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.


Photonics is essentially the science that involves generation of a photon (light), its detection, as well as manipulation via transmission, emission, signal processing, modulation, switching, amplification, and sensing. Most importantly, photonics involves the proper use of light as a tool.

Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing is a field of computing that leverages the principles of quantum mechanics to process information using qubits rather than bits, which form the base of classical computing. Quantum computing operates using two fundamental principles of quantum physics – superimposition and entanglement. The superimposition of qubits allows them to represent both 1 and 0 at the same time, while using entanglement, the cubits can be correlated with each other whereby the state of one cubit can be dependent on the state of the other. Quantum technologies are being explored to provide secure communication networks, better computing power, sensors, and metrology. Future application areas cover quantum-enabled satellites, unhackable Internet networks, more accurate atom clocks, cryptography, and simulation systems.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy comprises sources of energy generation that don’t get depleted over a period of time unlike conventional fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Sources of renewable energy include solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro, and biomass. These energy sources can be utilized for both heating and power generation purposes.

Robotics and Automation

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) defines a robot as a re-programmable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools or specialised devices through variable programmed motions for a variety of tasks. Automation is the creation of technology and its application in order to control and monitor the production and delivery of various goods and services. It performs tasks that were previously performed by humans. Automation is being used in a number of areas such as manufacturing, transport, utilities, defence, facilities, operations and lately, information technology.

Satellite Communications Technology

Satellite communications technology is becoming an important element in the 5G ecosystem, thereby complementing fixed and wireless terrestrial communication. In the IoT industry, satellites will be used most prominently in the military, oil and gas, and aviation markets. Due to their differences in capabilities, satellites will not compete directly with terrestrial technologies, such as cellular and fibre optics. Satellite technology will, instead, be used as a complimentary technology to fill in communication gaps that are present globally. Additionally, satellite will remain the only option for maritime, aviation, and offshore oil and gas IoT applications. Satellite technology is unique in that it can be used to provide network coverage to nearly any location on the planet, regardless of infrastructure. This coverage is important for IoT used in markets where continuous coverage in remote or difficult to reach locations is necessary.

Smart Buildings and infrastructure

Smart buildings make use of intelligence, control, and the built environment, both internal and external, to deliver energy efficiency, sustainability, and occupant comfort as some of the key objectives. The buildings must have high adaptability to the changes in the environment and to the occupants’ needs.

Smart Grid

Smart grids bring in capabilities such as communication and automation to energy infrastructure and make it more reliable and stable. One of the key differentiating factors of a smarter system is the data fidelity associated with it. With better sensing and communication capability, the amount of data generated and transferred will be extremely high in case of every smart system, including the grid. Some of the important features of smart grids include two way communication enabling better end user interaction, smarter and more effective management of loads, demand and generation sources through better monitoring and improved energy reliability through the addition of distributed energy resources.

Social Media

Social media refers to Web technology that facilitates creation and sharing of community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration via networks. Websites and applications that are dedicated to social forums, curation, bookmarking, wikis and microblogging amongst others represent the different types of social media. The rising use of social media sites and apps including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.


Wearables are body-worn electronics, which have manifold capabilities right from activity tracking, personnel monitoring, vital signs monitoring, fatigue management, user alert monitoring, end-user mind control, sound control, and brain control capabilities. Advancements in communication technologies, analytics, artificial intelligence, and wireless sensors are encouraging developments in this space.