US infrastructure spend: How to get a share

  • April 1, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Steve Rogerson looks at how the IoT industry could benefit from the US government’s planned trillion dollar spend on infrastructure.

Let’s imagine I win the lottery this week. OK, I don’t do the lottery, but this is a fantasy story. Let us also imagine that I decide to give away all the money I win. I told you it was a fantasy.

Now, not only am I giving the money away, I am saying how I am going to judge who is worthy to receive this money. No matter how tight those rules, I suspect I would have a rush of very inventive applications in my inbox.

Next, imagine it is not me giving away the money but the US government. And that is not a fantasy; they really are giving away more than a trillion dollars to invest in the country’s infrastructure. The number of companies involved in some way in infrastructure is immense, with everything from builders and car makers to hospitals and retailers, from bricks to traffic signs, and, of course, the IoT.

I reckon the applications will be even more inventive than the ones I would get if I won the lottery. So, you are an IoT company, you know how beneficial IoT technology can be for a host of infrastructure applications, and you want a slice of this pie. What do you do?

This was the subject of an online panel I listened into at the end of last month organised by the IoT M2M Council (IMC) entitled: “Government IoT funding: Merging physical and digital infrastructure.”

There is a problem, and that was summed up by Syed Zaeem Hosain, CTO of Aeris Communications, who reminded us early in the panel that the government did not understand the importance of the IoT, let alone realise how dominant the technology would be by the end of the decade. He believes the initial job we have to do is help those responsible for dishing out this money know what the IoT is and how it is being used.

Bob Gaines, executive vice president at government relations firm Smith Dawson & Andrews, agreed that a lot of folks did not know how vital the IoT was and said it should be included in all discussions about improving the infrastructure.

Then there is the question of how to convince the government to give you some of this money. Grant Seiffert, CEO of GS Initiatives, reckons you won’t need to because it will not be the national government making that decision. The bulk of the money will be transferred to states and local governments for local projects. Now, on one hand that is a shame because it lacks the vision that a truly national effort could have achieved, but on the other hand it is more manageable and, more important, a lot easier to stand out in the queue for the dosh.

This also means gearing your project to fit local needs. Gaines said smart city applications were a good start. What does your city need and how could your technology help enable that? Framing a bid around a specific project with local benefit will help catch the eyes of local government officials. And they also do not like projects that will cost them more money in the future, so Scott Tousley, principal of the Global Cities Teams Challenge, said look to ensure you presented a project that would still be high quality in three, five or even ten years.

Also, said Hosain, look at ways to add to what is in the city or community today. They are not going to rebuild the cities, they are not going to tear down what they already have.

Gaines said you needed to have a nimble approach. This is new territory both for you and for the local government. The old-fashioned ways may not work anymore, so be nimble because things are changing constantly and you may need to adapt as the project application proceeds.

One final thing to remember is this will not be quick. As Hosain pointed out, getting government money takes a lot of time because of the processes governments, local or national, have to go through. There are rules to follow, so do not do it alone but get some help and guidance from bodies who are used to dealing with the government. That way you could be in for a nice windfall.

As to me, all this talk about money has tempted me to break the habit and do the lottery this weekend. If my next post is from a Caribbean beach, you will know what happened.