In the last decades, we have experienced many factors related to environmental and social needs taking a stronger influence in the direction many industries develop. In particular, the introduction of digitalisation as a tool to enhancing future requirements has had an enormous impact on all sectors and industries. Digital transformations that are taking place in the construction sector are often referred to as Construction 4.0.
Over the last years, the asphalt industry got its own digital revolution, hand in hand with the latest developments in robotics, machine-to-machine communication, sensors and IoT (Internet of Things), big data, artificial intelligence and many others. These new technologies have a huge impact on the asphalt industry itself. They are a contribution to and improving almost every aspect of asphalt production, asphalt paving and asphalt maintenance. We have recognised this in the theme of the congress: Asphalt 4.0
The future mobility scenarios that are being developed now will clearly have impacts on our road infrastructure now as new technology is tested and expected to increase in impact in the very near future. The traditional ways of travel will change and the use of automated and guided vehicles will have a greater effect on-road requirements.
The digitalisation in the asphalt sector has already and will continue to improve areas such as production efficiency and the asphalt paving process including its quality control. Next to that, it will also contribute to delivering a high-quality customer experience during every stage of the road’s service life, in a smart, connected and synergetic way. In parallel to these changes from digitalisation, we are also experiencing increasing requirements to reduce the environmental impacts and further improve health and safety at work.
With more than 90% of the existing European road infrastructure being represented by asphalt materials, this means that as an industry we will also need to accommodate future mobility solutions either for maintenance or paving. The continued integration of digitalization into industry practices, the need to create better connectivity and data exchange platforms, and the general ambition overall to offer sustainable solutions will all play key roles!
Digital transformation of road paving refers to a series of smart and autonomous systems driven by big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), etc. with the capacity to significantly push forward the efficiency, productivity, quality, reliability and sustainability of asphalt roads. This involves the use of digital tools to automate, monitor, and improve the way, in which the industry develops conventional activities, such as management, manufacturing of bituminous mixtures, supply, or laying.
The use of digital technology will improve the way in which organizations will develop their activities and help them realise their goals. In addition, they also facilitate and accelerate the transition of the mobility sector towards its new users, such as electric and automated vehicles.
Asphalt, bitumen, and other related industries need to be ready for these future requirements – undoubtedly asphalt roads and the services they provide will remain of high importance in the future for all types of end-users from cyclists, motorcycles, cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles regardless of the way they move forward. The focus, however, will be to create smart roads and therefore smart asphalt.
Therefore, the overall theme of the E&E Congress 2021 being “Asphalt 4.0 for future mobility” reflects this change and highlights the importance for our industry to be part of the solutions.