Grants made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act boost the use of Wireless WAN in public transit, utilities, manufacturing, and more
Most public agencies have increased automation and futuristic technologies on their bucket lists, but many find themselves paralyzed by the cost to invest in enterprise upgrades. Fortunately, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill allocates $1.2 trillion to infrastructure improvements enabling industries such as transportation, utilities, energy, manufacturing, and more to modernize their operations and workforce through grants.
What is in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill?
When we talk about local infrastructure, we typically think of major bridge and highway projects, or anything surrounded by orange cones and yellow construction equipment that slows traffic during rush hour. While the Infrastructure Bill does include $110 billion for road and bridge improvements, it also includes the following allocations:
- $73 billion for grid modernization
- $65 billion for localized broadband improvements
- $39 billion for public transit
- $15 billion for electric vehicles
- $11 billion for transportation safety
The total investment from this bill is forecasted to support more than 700,000 new jobs each year through 2032, including 175,000 manufacturing jobs, 175,000 construction jobs, and 100,000 transportation jobs.
Use cases for Infrastructure Bill funding
As departments of transportation (DOT), cities, school districts, and others begin to dive into the details of this act, it will become clear that in the case of the Infrastructure Bill, broadband is an important player. LTE and 5G will provide varying solutions for improvements in bandwidth, latency, speed, and uptime. Wireless WAN (WWAN) solutions are cost-effective and can be rapidly deployed to support connectivity across key industries.
Within the Infrastructure Bill, public transit is only slated to receive around 3.25% of the total funding, but that amount is vital to improving connectivity in buses, subways, city taxis, and stations that use LTE and 5G to manage customer Wi-Fi, digital signage, toll automation, fare collection, and other cellular IoT connectivity solutions. Improved security of transit facilities through video surveillance and access control may also be funded through the technology grants and established on Private 5G networks.
In a continued effort to reduce oil consumption, grants established using the electric vehicle allocations will center on DOT and federal infrastructure needed for charging stations and the connectivity required to power point-of-sale transactions and software upgrades.
Intelligent transportation systems will also benefit from the Infrastructure Bill. With well over 300,000 intelligent intersections throughout the U.S. and 2,000-3,000 more being brought online every year, technology grants stemming from this bill will help fund IoT integration to monitor and adjust the flow of traffic based on patterns; control adaptive ramp metering; adjust stoplights to accommodate emergency or large transit vehicles; and manage toll booths, digital signage, and license plate readers. WWANs provide the connectivity for each IoT device to communicate with a transportation management center in real time.
When it comes to the use of technology grants, smart city infrastructure is another trend that relies heavily on IoT and WWAN connectivity. From wastewater and water supply management to the automation of smart streetlights, wireless sensors can provide critical data to reduce operational costs and troubleshoot issues.
The largest focus of utility-based allocations will be on grid modernization and the centralized management of power supplies to cities and large facilities like hospitals and universities. Incorporation of IoT and remote connectivity to these grids means meter readings can be captured across large areas at defined intervals, statistics can be shared in real time with other utility networks to improve public safety, customers can be actively informed about outages or malfunctions, and response routing can be optimized based on location.
Manufacturing and construction
Connected manufacturing and construction will reach most enterprises that choose to take advantage of the new infrastructure funds in any capacity. WWANs provide the connectivity to power autonomous vehicles in factories and on build sites, and public and Private 5G networks tap into the bandwidth, speed, and latency needed for industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions such as digital twinning, remote diagnostics, and sensors.
These technologies, along with automated tooling and quality control, will make new infrastructure project builds more efficient and safer in the long run.
How to take advantage of technology grants
The $1.2 trillion available through the Infrastructure Bill will be released through congressional allocations in formula and competitive grants.
Formula grants are created through legislation with a predetermined application formula. In other words, the grant may only be available to communities with a population of 5,000 people or less, communities with a certain percentage of unemployment, disadvantaged populations, etc. Once the grant is approved, applicants who fit the pre-determined criteria can apply.
Competitive grants are those in which the grant announcement is made via a request for proposal (RFP), inviting organizations, agencies, or large enterprises to apply. RFP applications are judged blindly by a panel that may include individuals from the community, from academia, heads of agencies, or leaders in the respective industry. Each application is graded according to a set of predefined qualifications, and the application with the highest grade is awarded the grant.
In anticipation of these grants, agencies and enterprises should identify the needs in their communities now, and research vendors and solutions to determine how funding from the Infrastructure Bill can be used.