Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems

“Introduction to module 2 … System of systems … Convergence and divergence … Evolution of infrastructures … inverse Infrastructures … Connecting the dots: Telecom sector”
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Summaries

  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.1 Introduction to module 2 > Web lecture: Introduction to module 2
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.2 System of systems > Web lecture: System of systems, part A
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.2 System of systems > Web lecture: System of systems, part B
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.3 Convergence and divergence > Web lecture: Convergence and Divergence
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.4 Evolution of infrastructures > Web lecture: Evolution of infrastructures
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.5 inverse Infrastructures > Web lecture: Inverse Infrastructures and examples
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.6 Connecting the dots: Telecom sector > Web lecture: Connecting the dots: Telecom sector
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > Bonus: Standardization processes > Web lecture: Standards and flexible infrastructures, part 1
  • Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > Bonus: Standardization processes > Web lecture: Standards and flexible infrastructures, part 2

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.1 Introduction to module 2 > Web lecture: Introduction to module 2

  • In the previous weeks, you have learned to define infrastructure systems as complex socio-technical systems – and you have seen how today’s large scale infrastructure networks evolved over decades and even centuries, driven by emerging needs and technologies.
  • For instance: Are you dealing with a problem that requires intervention by a supranational authority – or is it something that can be solved at the local level? Are you dealing with a problem in infrastructure operation, or is it concerned with securing future infrastructure performance over a longer time scale of several decades? And are you dealing with a problem that originates within the same infra-system – or is its root cause originating from another infra-system? It may be disconcerting to realize how interdependent our infrastructure systems are: without electricity, mobile telecommunications will break down.
  • The interdependencies and interactions between different infrastructures explain why it is so difficult to restore basic services after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
  • Also within mono-functional infrastructure systems, such as railway systems and electricity infrastructure, interconnectivity and interoperability standards are key to ensuring the smooth functioning of interconnected multi-national infrastructure systems.
  • In other words, this week’s course material will show you the increasing complexity of infrastructure systems, caused by expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, across national borders and across the borders between infrastructure sectors.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.2 System of systems > Web lecture: System of systems, part A

  • The aggregated system can only function as a system thanks to the adoption of interconnection and interoperability standards.
  • Why was it adopted? Standard time became a necessity because of the roll-out of national infrastructure systems, for postal services and railway transportation – and it became possible to distribute standard time by the implementation of another new infrastructure: the telegraph communication system.
  • The railway system was run by private railway operators each of which based their timetable on their own local time standards, so you can imagine the delays and accidents caused by the lack of standardized time.
  • Given the local origins of these networks, you can now start appreciating the standardization issues that had to be overcome to bring continental and global infrastructure systems into being.
  • An international pipeline system for natural gas requires all users, both suppliers and buyers of the gas, to agree on a standardized gas quality.
  • If different countries apply different national gas standards, they have to modify the gas quality before feeding the gas into their national transport and distribution system.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.2 System of systems > Web lecture: System of systems, part B

  • The electricity infrastructure is a so-called critical infrastructure.
  • At this point, let me take the notion of systems-of-systems to another level, that is, to the level of interconnections and interactions between infrastructures in different sectors.
  • The definition of critical infrastructure varies between countries, but in all cases includes electricity and telecommunications as “most” critical infrastructures, which all other critical infrastructures depend upon.
  • Emergency services, financial services, public health services, agriculture and food supply and many other sectors, including government, cannot be maintained for any sustained period of time without electricity and telecommunication.
  • Electricity and telecom infrastructures themselves use resources that are, in part, provided by other infrastructures.
  • To supply telecom services, the telecommunication system uses electricity, water and natural gas, to name just a few of the required infrastructure related services.
  • At the same time, the electricity infrastructure uses telecommunication services, water, et cetera.
  • In other words, there is a high level of interdependency between infrastructure systems across different sectors.
  • These interdependencies come in various types: Physical interdependencies exist when resources are exchanged: when the resources produced by some infrastructure are used by another infrastructure to produce its own resources and the other way around.
  • Geographic interdependencies occur as a consequence of geographic proximity between infrastructures, so that a problem in one infrastructure can adversely affect other infrastructure.
  • The web of interdependencies between critical and not-so-critical infrastructures creates a highly complex system-of-systems, in which the failure of a single element or a single resource may cause a domino effect that affects all critical infrastructures in a region and could bring the entire region to a stand-still.
  • Many governments have been working and are still working on strategies to reduce their vulnerability to outages of critical infrastructures.
  • The system-of-systems character of infrastructure systems, both within and across infrastructure sectors, implies that strategies to avoid or recover from a breakdown require a multitude of actors to interact, including infrastructure owners and operators, producers of infrastructure resources, service providers and government.
  • Especially since all infrastructure providers are subject to economic efficiency incentives, the interdependencies across infrastructure sectors are unlikely to be properly managed without government intervention.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.3 Convergence and divergence > Web lecture: Convergence and Divergence

  • Hello, this video will discuss convergence, technical convergence to be more precise.
  • Technical convergence is described as “the tendency for different technological systems to evolve toward performing similar tasks.
  • For this MOOC, we are primarily interested in convergence phenomena in infrastructures.
  • When describing convergence in infra-systems the most distinct examples can be identified in the world of information and communications technology.
  • Once separate infrastructures such as the Public Switched Telephone Network and the cable networks have merged.
  • In the early 1980s academics feared that convergence would be accompanied with an increased concentration of power.
  • Today’s world of ICT, media and telecommunications is widely diverse, partly because multiple services can be offered via competing infrastructures.
  • The opposite effect of convergence can also be identified: divergence: dedicated and separate infrastructures.
  • Whereas in the past the transportation of people and freight often used the same railway infrastructure nowadays infrastructures are becoming more specialized.
  • There are a number of issues that almost always come hand in hand with convergence and divergence in infrastructures.
  • Five of these I will discuss here shortly: First of all, convergence and divergence have an effect on users and companies who are using the services provided though infra-systems.
  • Secondly, convergence or divergence often lead to the inception of new business models.
  • With convergence or divergence, and the introduction of new technologies, new business opportunities arise.
  • These transformations from old to new business models due to convergence or divergence are however often inhibited by large existing infrastructure companies who may enjoy advantages such as economies of scale, a large customer base and brand reputation.
  • Third, convergence and divergence are also connected to processes of liberalization and market evolution.
  • New markets are created and take over older markets.
  • Often the processes convergence and divergence which lead to market liberalization and market evolution have to be governed by some form of intervention.
  • Questions that may arise when observing and analyzing convergence and divergence are for example: How can we enable a transition towards the digitization of our telecommunication sector? Or how can we improve the sustainability of our electricity system? Should governments be allowed to subsidize renewable technologies in power production or is this a form of undesired and market disrupting state aid? A fourth vital ingredient of convergence are the rules and institutions that emerge during the convergence process and that stimulate or delay this process.
  • Bodies of manufacturers, service providers, but also government agencies can have a large impact on the convergence process by focusing on standardization: setting up the rules and standards that allow for interoperability and interconnectivity of items.
  • As a result of convergence and evolution of infra-systems, roles and responsibilities and public interests change.
  • What about new roles? For example should regulators in a more competitive environment be especially interested in issues of customer quality or not? Another problem with convergence for regulation is the blurring or blending of the regimes as two infra-systems converge.
  • What public values should be regulated and how? These types of issues become increasingly important if we also consider that also new types of values enter the realm of regulation.
  • The way in which new infra-systems operate lead to different use of technology and thus changing values.
  • Nowadays, You-tube and twitter have thoroughly altered the media-landscape and with them set new challenges to high-quality journalism.
  • What can we conclude if we observe the infra-system landscape? Can we identify one universal trend in convergence across infra-systems? It seems that there are multiple developments unfolding in infrastructures including convergence as well as divergence phenomena.
  • Consumer behavior and new technological developments create a hugely dynamic and unpredictable landscape.
  • As a consequence of the forces of convergence and divergence we do however see an important trend in the evolution of infra-systems.
  • On the other hand we identify meta-networks such as fibre optic cable networks and electric superhighways that allow data and electricity to be transported across infra-systems in large quantities across large distances.
  • One thing is certain convergence and divergence are important concepts that are closely interrelated with the evolution of our infra-systems and will lead to a large number of governance challenges for a long time to come.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.4 Evolution of infrastructures > Web lecture: Evolution of infrastructures

  • This lecture will deal with the question how infrastructures we know today came into being and how this is still shaping our future.
  • This is the ability of specific infrastructures to connect up to other infrastructures in other countries.
  • Such interoperability is key to a successful development of infrastructural systems, since they can only function when they are a network, not only on a national level but also beyond, on a European and a global level.
  • The design visible on the picture is typically European compromise: it combines a French and German key into one.
  • First, it assumes that nation-states are a natural unit for infrastructure development, International, European and Global network development is not in conflict with network development.
  • On the contrary European and Global networks should be built out of national networks.
  • Second, infrastructure building across borders can help to avoid conflicts between nation-states since they connect people and this will create mutual understanding, cooperation and peace.
  • Infrastructures are public utilities to serve the people.
  • Third, infrastructures should be developed by experts, not by politicians.
  • The political and technical should be treated as completely separate spheres, and as much power as possible should be delegated to experts, not to the politicians.
  • Supposedly ideological neutral engineers will find and implement optimal solutions both on the national and international level and be able to harmonize national and international developments, because they work on both levels.
  • In short, infrastructures should be left to experts.
  • The model of delegation of negotiation to experts had two path-dependent impacts on the governance of the infrastructure industry.
  • I want to highlight two impacts: First, infrastructure became an expert driven business and a national industry, with high ideals embodied in it.
  • Experts controlled both the national and international level, and this made it possible for them to create interoperability.
  • When the European Economic Community was set up during the 1950s it wanted to develop a new European infrastructure policy in which nation-states would transfer their power over national infrastructure development to the Community and the EU would create one big liberalized market, also for communication, transport and energy services.
  • On the picture we see the celebration of the opening of the common market for coal and steel, symbolized by a train and 6 national flags.
  • The EEC promoters also embraced the working methods of technocratic internationalism, in particular delegation to experts, but they wanted these experts to serve a new political project: the integration of a new liberalized Europe.
  • Why not? After all, also the Community preferred an expert driven model, yet one in which experts would have to celebrate European Union ideals and not national ones.
  • How could this be a rational basis for expert driven decision-making about infrastructure development? Why should only experts of these countries be involved and not others? In addition they did not believe in liberalism, but in national public service and national monopolies for energy, transport and communication provision.
  • It was enlarged and it had become clear that the enormous internal growth of trade, was made possible by the infrastructures provided by the experts But also that the infrastructure development could not handle anymore all the problems.
  • The idea was, among other things, we have to reduce all barriers connected to lack of operability of infrastructure networks, and construct new missing links, as is visible on the map here.
  • This time infrastructure experts aligned themselves with the EU, The EU delegated the choice of new projects to experts, without much involvement of stakeholders and in particular the broader public.
  • The projects they propose were in principle national projects, which they relabelled as European, and they resisted full liberalization of European infrastructure markets.
  • Nation states want to keep control of their infrastructures.
  • It is also clear that globalization is demanding governance of infrastructure to move to a European and perhaps even a global level.
  • Technocratic internationalism sits uncomfortable with the clear wish for stronger public participation and control over infrastructure development.
  • Many European citizens do not want experts to design new infrastructures without any direct public involvement.
  • It is unclear how to organize this involvement, and combine it with the necessary expert knowledge.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.5 inverse Infrastructures > Web lecture: Inverse Infrastructures and examples

  • I am keenly interested in how standards affect the development and evolution of infrastructures.
  • I led the NGInfra Foundation project that resulted in the edited volume Inverse Infrastructures: Disrupting Networks from Below, the book on which this lecture is based as well as most of my examples.
  • What we will be looking at in this video is a phenomenon which professor Vree has coined ‘Inverse Infrastructures’, that is, infrastructures developed bottom-up by citizens and users, that is, by you and me.
  • The road infrastructure is pre-designed, public property, and governed centrally and top-down by the public authorities.
  • This example touches on several characteristics of inverse infrastructures.
  • In this module, we will be looking more closely at these characteristics, at in what respect inverse infrastructures differ from LTSs, and at how the two are related.
  • The lecture will provide an initial basis for understanding how heterogeneous the infrastructure landscape actually is, and for thinking about possible futures.
  • Let’s first list the main characteristics of inverse infrastructures.
  • Ownership of the resulting infrastructure is absent or unclear.
  • Non-commercial, inverse ones start with citizens that have wireless Internet access at home.
  • A city-wide wireless network results, driven and maintained by citizen volunteers.
  • The expert and lay volunteers invested time to get things going and keep the infrastructure running.
  • Let’s return to the inverse infrastructure characteristics with this example in mind.
  • They are volunteer technical experts and laypersons, who self-organize the development and maintenance of the infrastructure.
  • From the start it is unpredictable who will join in, who will stay over time and remain involved, and how much area coverage will be achieved.
  • In this respect, inverse infrastructures very much differ from most LTS-like infrastructures we see around us.
  • Let’s look a little closer at the difference with LTSs. Typically, infrastructure services such as electricity, water supply, transport, IT, etc.
  • The infrastructures of today are often LTSs. They are designed top-down and developed by professionals.
  • Think of the metro in Paris, the infrastructures of newly built cities in China, or the road grid in New York.
  • These examples differ totally from the prototypical bottom-up inverse approach.
  • Let’s step back and have another look at the infrastructure landscape.
  • First of all, prototypical inverse infrastructures emerge in an environment in which LTSs dominate.
  • This sets inverse infras apart from early developments of LTSs such as beginnings of electricity or telegraphy.
  • It also showed a top-down infrastructure option for pedestrians: you could have walked along the pavement instead of taking the shortcut.
  • Current institutions and regulations have evolved specifically to deal with these top-down and centrally organized infrastructures.
  • Think about what this means for bottom-up developed inverse infrastructures.
  • Third, imagine furthermore that these citizen-driven infrastructures really take off and become successful.
  • In these cases inverse solutions may tread on what government authorities and commercial providers may view as their turf.
  • The example illustrates the friction that may arise between inverse initiatives and their top-down oriented surroundings.
  • The relation between top-down and bottom-up developed infrastructures entails more than possible competition.
  • The infrastructures are often interdependent and highly intertwined.
  • If you think about it, citizen-driven waste separation has become an inverse link in an otherwise highly centralized, high-tech chain of waste collection and processing.
  • This is a user-driven knowledge infrastructure that can compete with any Encyclopedia.
  • It runs on the Internet, which is itself an inverse infrastructure, which in turn requires electricity – usually provided by large companies who are obliged to guarantee reliable service provision.
  • It is important to realize that inverse infrastructures don’t develop in a void.
  • To summarize, we first looked at the main characteristics of inverse infrastructures.
  • Then we went on to discuss how they differ from LTSs, infrastructures designed top-down and organized centrally.
  • We rounded off by talking about competition and interrelatedness between inverse and top-down infrastructures.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > 2.6 Connecting the dots: Telecom sector > Web lecture: Connecting the dots: Telecom sector

        To put it another way: standardization is a necessary requirement to realize competition, privatization, internationalization and convergence.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > Bonus: Standardization processes > Web lecture: Standards and flexible infrastructures, part 1

  • I am keenly interested in how standards affect the development and evolution of infrastructures.
  • I led the NGInfra Foundation project Standards and the flexibility of infrastructures on which this lecture is based.
  • Let me begin by saying that most people think standards are things that freeze technology development and prevent change.
  • Let’s take GSM, a standard first published by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute in 1990.
  • GSM is a well-known standard for mobile telephony It was initiated in the early 1980s by a number of national Public Telephone Operators.
  • In the GSM standard, certain technological choices are specified and frozen.
  • In fact a high degree of socio-technical entrenchment goes hand in hand with the wide adoption of standards.
  • In the coming two videos I want to invite you to take a different outlook and explore how standards can function as catalysts of change.
  • More specifically, can standards increase infrastructure flexibility? Can they even catalyze more radical infrastructure transitions? I will use the ISO container for freight transport as a running example because it involves such a straightforward technology.
  • Before I can start you need to know some more about standards.
  • There are many kinds of standards: standards for measurements, nuts and bolts, clean drinking water, food safety, building materials, treatment of diseases, etc.
  • These standards are developed in committees, mostly by technical experts and representatives of industry and government.
  • Such committees reside under official standards bodies like the International Organization for Standardization, governmental bodies, professional organizations, industry consortia and to name some exclusively infrastructure-oriented ones: the International Union of Railways and the International Telecommunications Union.
  • BIS is one of the 164 national standards bodies that are member of ISO.
  • Think of the technology war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. The winner of this war, Blu-ray, has become the de facto standard.
  • In contrast, committee standards are negotiated and agreed upon.
  • Developing standards is often quite difficult and lengthy.
  • Not least because competing companies are sitting at the table and the standard is likely to be used in different operational contexts.
  • The standard specifications should preferably meet the needs of these national transport champions Indeed, all this underscores the highly interest-driven political nature of most standards.
  • Earlier, I said that I would be focusing on committee standards.
  • While measurement standards, safety standards, quality standards etc.
  • Are all relevant to infrastructures, I will focus on compatibility standards.
  • Why focus on compatibility standards? Because they often constitute the core of an infrastructure You could even say that they ARE the infrastructure! Think, for example, of the family of Internet protocols developed in the International Engineering Task Force , and the GSM or ISO container standards.
  • Now, why are compatibility standards interesting in the light of infrastructure flexibility? Quoting David and Bunn, the authors of The Economics of Gateway Technologies and Network Evolution, standards create: compatible complements, which is when subsystems A and C can be used together, as with a plug and a socket; and compatible substitutes, when subsystems A and B can each be used with C, e.g. when both a digital camera and an external hard disk can connect to the USB interface of a computer.
  • In the next video I will address two follow-up questions: Do certain standards characteristics increase infrastructure flexibility better than others? And can standards also catalyze radical infrastructure transitions? Thank you for your attention! See you back later.

Module 2: Fuzzy borders: expansion and interconnection of infrastructure systems, > Bonus: Standardization processes > Web lecture: Standards and flexible infrastructures, part 2

  • In the previous lecture, we concluded that a standard, if well-designed, can increase infrastructure flexibility.
  • Next, we will zoom out again, summarize the key issues addressed in these two videos, and round off by discussing whether standards can also catalyze more radical infrastructure transitions.
  • It’s time to look a little closer and ask ourselves whether standards with certain characteristics are better in creating flexibility than others.
  • I’m going to discuss three very different characteristics: the degree of consensus the standard reflects, its specificity and its simplicity.
  • The better the standard succeeds in doing both, the happier the committee members and the stronger their willingness to support the standard.
  • These detailed standards are called descriptive standards.
  • As for the simplicity of a standard, I spoke earlier of the political nature of most standards processes.
  • Typically, there’s a lot of pressure on standards committees to include additional solutions in the standard.
  • The committee may leave wordings ambiguous so that the standard can be interpreted in different ways.
  • Standards users can then choose the option that serves them best and still claim compliance to the standard.
  • In practice standards options lead to interoperability problems, that is, to products that are standard-compliant but incompatible.
  • Straightforward and simple standards like the initial proposal for the Series 1 ISO container contribute much more strongly to system flexibility.
  • Concerning the container, perhaps interesting to know, in the second draft of the container standard extra lengths were added.
  • Apart from the Series 1, the ‘maritime’ container I’ve been talking about, a Series 2 and 3 standard was discussed: standards that would better match the status quo of the railways in Europe and in the USSR, respectively.
  • To summarize, we’ve been looking at how compatibility standards create room for infrastructure change.
  • This is done by specifying performance standards and keeping the standard simple.
  • The more consensus, the more likely the standard will be widely implemented, and the stronger its impact as a generic gateway.
  • A standard’s potential to allow more radical change resides, first of all, in the exchangeability of subsystems.
  • Subsystem 4 of Infrastructure A has evolved into subsystem 4′ and become part of the new Infrastructure B. We’ve studied several cases to explore to what degree standards allow more radical infrastructure change.
  • What role do compatibility standards play in these infrastructures? Let’s take the example of the smart grid, around which much development activity is taking place.
  • The smart grid standards can be seen as multi-sided platforms: the more different kind of producers connect, the more consumers benefit, and vice versa.
  • These standards need to be open and vendor-independent; make it easy to connect new subsystems to the smart grid; and define how to interoperate without hindering the simultaneous evolution of different subsystems Or, in the terms used previously, standards are needed that well-bridge socio-technical differences, are performance-oriented and as simple as possible.
  • In these two lectures, we have seen that standards can increase infrastructure flexibility, the flexibility of LTSs as well as inverse infrastructures.

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