Infrastructure opportunities abundent in Asia

In Asia, increasing urbanization, unbridled economic growth, and years of public-sector neglect mean that countries need to spend US$700 billion per year to develop and expand their infrastructure, according to Michael Carapiet, executive director and of Macquarie Capital Advisers, speaking at the December 2007 Asian Infrastructure Conference held in Singapore.


In Asia, increasing urbanization, unbridled economic growth, and years of public-sector neglect mean that countries need to spend US$700 billion per year to develop and expand their infrastructure, according to Michael Carapiet, executive director and of Macquarie Capital Advisers, speaking at the December 2007 Asian Infrastructure Conference held in Singapore.

The UN echoes his call, saying lack of investment in infrastructure threatens long term development of the Asia Pacific region. Indeed, there is a strong link between the strength of a country's infrastructure and its economic growth potential.

The good news for automation suppliers is that this represents business opportunities, as countries invest in new facilities to support their manufacturing sectors and to provide a better quality of life to more affluent citizenry.

“Citect in Asia sees a high demand from customers involved in infrastructure projects such as power distribution, water treatment, airport and facilities management, and pipeline distribution systems for oil and gas,” says Scott Druery, Southeast Asia head for the Australian automation software supplier, now part of Schneider Electric

With surging passenger traffic and cargo levels highlighting inadequacies of its airport sector, an aggressive modernization and expansion program is underway in key Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. In addition, some 35 new non-metro airports are being built. China is another country taking heed, recently revealing plans to build an eye-popping 97 new airports by 2020.

For Citect, the airport building and modernization boom spells clear opportunities. “The high speed, high volume of real-time data demanded by airports requires automation systems, such as distributed PLCs and SCADA.”

As Asian countries move far beyond exporting basic agriculture and commodities, becoming linked into interdependent and global supply chains, there is a need for improved logistics infrastructure quality.

Singapore has made efforts to achieve a top-notch logistics infrastructure as part of its effort to induce more foreign investment. “We use Singapore as our shipping hub. Broadcom needs a very good logistics base and Singapore has the best of any countries in Asia,” said Rick Hodgman, Broadcom's managing director for Asian Operation.

In addition to ongoing investments in a comprehensive subway system — now including driverless trains — Singapore was the first country in the world to introduce electronic road pricing (ERP) as a means of managing road traffic levels.

Every licensed car is equipped with an RFID-based cash card system for collecting tolls based on time of day. Having an RFID sensor in each car has allowed other automation applications to spring up. Most major car parks, for example, have RFID readers at entrances and exits for payment deduction and barrier control.

Often touted as the “China of Southeast Asia,” Vietnam is ramping up infrastructure to ensure its nascent growth is sustained. “Vietnam needs modern highways to help remove the country's transportation bottlenecks, accelerate economic growth and ultimately expand economic opportunities for Vietnamese families,” said John Cooney, ADB infrastructure director, during a December 2007 announcement of US$1.1 billion four-lane highway that will link Hanoi and Kunming in southern China and is the bank's single largest ever loan project.

“We are pleased to have been selected for so many projects that are important to meeting the infrastructure needs of this region,”.

“In Asia and around the world,” Andy Wang, vice president, Asia Pacific, for Emerson Process Management's Power & Water Solutions division told CE Asia, “power generators are increasingly adopting a digital-bus-based approach for new construction. “At these highly automated plants, our PlantWeb architecture with the Ovation control system creates a network of predictive intelligence that detects problems even before they occur, enabling power generators to avoid unplanned outages and optimize daily operations.”

With the capability to deliver both power systems and automation technology, ABB is another company seeing healthy returns from Asian infrastructure projects.” Going forward, the key drivers of market growth will include the strong investments in the power sector to cope with growing demand, and higher penetration of automation in utilities to address cost pressures and improve quality of output,” says James Foo, president and country manager, ABB Singapore.

India, often tagged with the “poor infrastructure” label, is touting “Electricity for all by 2012”, which is sure to be welcomed by a population used to blackouts and brownouts and a reliance on diesel generators to keep the juice flowing.

For its activities in the power sector, Citect provides the example of a just completed project for PT Indonesia Power in which CitectSCADA centralizes control for nine hydro-power plants scattered across central Java to one location. “Through its 130 power plants, with a total capacity of 8,872 MW, PT Indonesia Power has contributed significantly to the Java Bali interconnection system electricity supply,” says Southeast Asia chief Scott Druery.

He also notes, “Anywhere we live in Southeast Asia, where it's hot and humid, we require power for lighting and air-conditioning, good clean drinking water, and fuels for energy. We need to invest in infrastructure to sustain life as we know it.”

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