It’s Time To Replace The Aging Roadway Infrastructure

Megan Ray Nichols

Rhode Island is one of the smallest states in the U.S., yet more than 56% of its bridges are deficient. Its roads aren’t any better. According to estimates, the state’s neglected roads cost drivers $637 a year in vehicle repairs, making it just one example of why the U.S. received a D+ grade in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 U.S. infrastructure report card. The report scored bridges with a C+, while roads earned a D.

Due to limited funding from state and federal governments, roads with poor conditions are rampant throughout the United States, with 23 states having more than 50% of their roads graded as deficient. Of those states, six have more than 70% of their roads in disrepair.

According to estimates, more than 3 trillion miles were traveled on U.S. roadways in 2016. Overall vehicle travel has also increased, putting even more pressure on a weakened infrastructure. Higher travel rates, weather, and weather treatments like de-icing chemicals all contribute to a road’s aging. It’s the overall lack of maintenance, however, that eventually makes roads deficient.

Meanwhile, bridges marked as deficient are still used for travel. In fact, 188 million trips were made across structurally unsound bridges in 2016, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Bridges, which degrade from weather, chemicals, and repeated travel, also break down because of low-quality materials used in their initial construction. Age is a particularly significant factor for bridges: most are designed to last between 50 to 100 years, and nearly four out of 10 bridges in the U.S. are now 50 years or older.

How bridges and roads are inspected

Inspections of roads and bridges confirm the urgent need for repairs and maintenance. Commercial divers often inspect bridges, because wear and tear occurs beneath the water’s surface as well as above it. Divers look for erosion from sand and sediment, along with cracks from stress or signs of an eventual break. However, this method can be expensive and ineffective due to limited visibility and concerns about safety and security.

New technology, such as acoustic imaging and remotely operated vehicles, helps divers focus their efforts. The sonar technology of underwater drones also alerts teams to potential obstructions or dangers divers might otherwise miss due to poor visibility.

Drones can also provide live video feeds, allowing crews to assess and analyze visuals, which divers can use as a reference. Teams can then order any necessary parts or materials to start repairs more quickly and effectively. Underwater drones can also assist during repairs, providing workers on land with a live video stream to monitor the dive team’s safety and progress.

Road inspections are often completed with machine testing and computer-analyzed video of roadways. Computers analyzing these videos log cracks and surface wear to develop pavement condition reports, which workers can compare to previous years. Machines such as miniature trailers are used to test a road’s friction, smoothness, and pavement structure. Some travelers notice factors such as road smoothness and friction, or how much their tires are sticking to the pavement.

Pavement structure is an important test because it shows if a road can handle the weight and volume of its daily traffic. When the structure fails, it can cause potholes. Machine testing contributes to computer-analyzed databases offering information about specific areas prone to wear.

Inspections and technology are crucial to developing maintenance and repair plans for bridges and roads throughout the U.S., but how to fund these repairs is an unanswered question.

How will state and federal governments replace bridges and roads?

Federal and state governments’ primary source of funding to replace and repair U.S. bridges and roads is, of course, taxes. The federal gas tax, which was passed in 1932, was designed to fund the maintenance, repair, and construction of U.S. infrastructure. Fast-forward 85 years, and lawmakers have increased this tax only 10 times. Today, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and its last increase was more than 20 years ago. Rhode Island and at least 17 other states, however, have begun to increase their taxes to support infrastructure.

Private investment is another possible solution to address crumbling U.S. bridges and roads, an option that is being considered by the Trump Administration. Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition, is directed toward earning infrastructure investments from outside sources, as tolls are not an option for all of America’s bridges and roads.

How the U.S. government will proceed with repairs to bridges and roads is still to be determined. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the cost of repairing U.S. roads and bridges at $836 billion and $123 billion, respectively. And that cost will only increase, as strained budgets continue to prevent regular preventative maintenance that could have helped prevent the country’s current infrastructure crisis in the first place.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading “The IoT Imperative in Public Services: Government and Healthcare.”

Image source: Pixabay 


About Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and the editor of “Schooled By Science.” She enjoys researching the latest advances in technology and writes regularly for Datafloq, Colocation American, and Vision Times. You can follow Megan on Twitter.

Digitalist Flash Briefing: Dulux Moves Beyond EDI

Bonnie D. Graham

Today’s briefing looks at how a business that decided to go paperless reaped an even greater benefit when it went to the cloud to digitally transform its supplier ecosystem. Bye bye, EDI!

  • Amazon Echo or Dot: Enable the “Digitalist” flash briefing skill, and ask Alexa to “play my flash briefings” on every business day.
  • Alexa on a mobile device:
    • Download the Amazon Alexa app: Select Skills, and search “Digitalist”. Then, select Digitalist, and click on the Enable button.
    • Download the Amazon app: Click on the microphone icon and say “Play my flash briefing.”

Find and listen to previous Flash Briefings on

Read more on today’s topic



About Bonnie D. Graham

Bonnie D. Graham is the creator, producer and host/moderator of 29 Game-Changers Radio series presented by SAP, bringing technology and business strategy thought leadership panel discussions to a global audience via the Business Channel on World Talk Radio. A broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years in media production and hosting, Bonnie has held marketing communications management roles in the business software, financial services, and real estate industries. She calls SAP Radio her “dream job”. Listen to Coffee Break with Game-Changers.

Blockchain To The Rescue: We Can Be Much Better At Weathering Natural Disasters

Susan Galer

As a massive hurricane devastates a city, first responders immediately bring life-saving medical attention, food, water, fuel, and other resources to victims in real-time, hiring suppliers with the best prices to deliver items to the exact locations where people need it most.

Contrary to real-life events in the news lately, this is not wishful thinking. It’s a humanitarian relief scenario made entirely possible by a blockchain technology demo I saw at the recent SAP TechEd event in this video interview with Torsten Zube, blockchain lead at the SAP Innovation Center Network.

Bringing help where it’s needed most

Called the “pooling and sharing” scenario, this blockchain example offers a fundamentally disruptive approach to quickly mobilize public and private organizations when disaster strikes. Often the problem lies not so much in the lack of resources available to help, but in the logistics to efficiently direct and deliver that support to the right places.

“Blockchain’s trusted, decentralized transparency across numerous parties – government officials, community organizers, vendors, utilities, healthcare providers ­– makes it perfectly suited to help align citizen demands for relief with the most readily available supplies,” said Zube. “It’s a very simple way to bring help to where it’s needed most. Giving everyone involved the ability to write and read data on an open source platform speeds up disaster relief to a whole new level.”

“During natural disasters, blockchain can bring life-saving transparency to humanitarian relief missions”

Essentially operating as an ad hoc supply chain network on a mobile app, this blockchain example connected suppliers of clean drinking water with helicopter pilots to schedule deliveries at specific locations within certain time frames. Smart contract technology determined which offer was the best one based on community needs, triggering acceptance of the offer, and setting in motion the delivery through confirmation.

“We end up with a system of record, built from scratch and outside of any existing application, that everyone can use right away to help alleviate problems faster,” said Zube.

Blockchain can’t prevent natural disasters, but it’s top of mind as a solution right now when millions of people are struggling with this season’s record breaking natural disasters.

Distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and other blockchain technologies embed integrity and provenance in every digital asset and transaction. Learn more about the benefits of Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

Follow me: @smgaler

This article originally appeared on SAP News Center.


Human Skills for the Digital Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

Technology Evolves.
So Must We.

Technology replacing human effort is as old as the first stone axe, and so is the disruption it creates.
Thanks to deep learning and other advances in AI, machine learning is catching up to the human mind faster than expected.
How do we maintain our value in a world in which AI can perform many high-value tasks?

Uniquely Human Abilities

AI is excellent at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data — but humans know what they don’t know.

We’re driven to explore, try new and risky things, and make a difference.
We deduce the existence of information we don’t yet know about.
We imagine radical new business models, products, and opportunities.
We have creativity, imagination, humor, ethics, persistence, and critical thinking.

There’s Nothing Soft About “Soft Skills”

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level. There’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

We must revamp how and what we teach to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and persistence. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, and most people will need help acquiring and improving them.

Anything artificial intelligence does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique abilities into account. While we help AI get more powerful, we need to get better at being human.

Download the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.

Read the full article The Human Factor in an AI Future.


About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu


Finance And HR: Friends Or Foes? Shifting To A Collaborative Mindset

Richard McLean

Part 1 in the 3-part “Finance and HR Collaboration” series

In my last blog, I challenged you to think of collaboration as the next killer app, citing a recent study by Oxford Economics sponsored by SAP. The study clearly explains how corporate performance improves when finance actively engages in collaboration with other business functions.

As a case in point, consider finance and HR. Both are being called on to work more collaboratively with each other – and the broader business – to help achieve a shared vision for the company. In most organizations, both have undergone a transformation to extend beyond operational tasks and adopt a more strategic focus, opening the door to more collaboration. As such, both have assumed three very important roles in the company – business partner, change agent, and steward. In this post, I’ll illustrate how collaboration can enable HR and finance to be more effective business partners.

Making the transition to focus on broader business objectives

My colleague Renata Janini Dohmen, senior vice president of HR for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, credits a changing mindset for both finance and HR as key to enabling the transition away from our traditional roles to be more collaborative. She says, “For a long time, people in HR and finance were seen as opponents. HR was focused on employees and how to motivate, encourage, and cheer on the workforce. Finance looked at the numbers and was a lot more cautious and possibly more skeptical in terms of making an investment. Today, both areas have made the transition to take on a more holistic perspective. We are pursuing strategies and approaching decisions based on what delivers the best return on investment for the company’s assets, whether those assets are monetary or non-monetary. This mindset shift plays a key role in how finance and HR execute the strategic imperatives of the company,” she notes.

Viewing joint decisions from a completely different lens

I agree with Renata. This mindset change has certainly impacted the way I make decisions. If I’m just focused on controlling costs and assessing expenditures, I’ll evaluate programs and ideas quite differently than if I’m thinking about the big picture.

For example, there’s an HR manager in our organization who runs Compensation and Benefits. She approaches me regularly with great ideas. But those ideas cost money. In the past, I was probably more inclined to look at those conversations from a tactical perspective. It was easy for me to simply say, “No, we can’t afford it.”

Now I look at her ideas from a more strategic perspective. I think, “What do we want our culture to be in the years ahead? Are the benefits packages she is proposing perhaps the right ones to get us there? Are they family friendly? Are they relevant for people in today’s world? Will they make us an employer of choice?” I quite enjoy the rich conversations we have about the impact of compensation and benefits design on the culture we want to create. Now, I see our relationship as much more collaborative and jointly invested in attracting and retaining the best people who will ultimately deliver on the company strategy. It’s a completely different lens.

Defining how finance and HR align to the company strategy

Renata and I believe that greater collaboration between finance and HR is a critical success factor. How can your organization achieve this shift? “Once the organization has clearly defined what role finance and HR must play and how they fundamentally align to the company strategy, then it’s more natural to structure them in a way to support such transformation,” Renata explains.

Technology plays an important role in our ability to successfully collaborate. Looking back, finance and HR were heavily focused on our own operational areas because everything we did tended to consume more time – just keeping the lights on and taking care of our basic responsibilities. Now, through a more efficient operating model with shared services, standard operating procedures, and automation, we can both be more business-focused and integrated. As a result, we’re able to collaborate in more meaningful ways to have a positive impact on business outcomes.

In our next blog, we’ll look at how finance and HR can work together as agents of change.

For a deeper dive, download the Oxford Economics study sponsored by SAP.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


Richard McLean

About Richard McLean

Richard McLean, regional CFO for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, oversees all key finance and administrative functions for field and regional headquarters, supporting more than 16,000 employees. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior finance roles with leading global companies across a range of industries, including financial services, investment banking, automotive, and IT. He joined SAP in 2008.