Management and Challenges of Infrastructure Network Interactions

Special Report: Sustainable Development of Technical Networks
By Rae Zimmerman

An increase in interdependencies among infrastructure systems has occurred in association with both increasing density of urban core areas as well as in the spread of population centers at the periphery of urban centers. An understanding of these development patterns is critical to the service these networks provide to users.
Three elements characterize the interaction between and among infrastructure networks and the social systems they serve, and are critical to managing potential adverse effects. These include: interconnectivity, redundancy and system knowledge. Interconnectivity occurs both spatially and functionally increasing the potential for negative interferences, but also opportunities for coordinated and more economical services. Spatial and functional interconnections often occur together, exemplified by wireless communication where increasing number of cell sites in close proximity to one another can disrupt the functioning of different wireless transmissions as well as electrical and navigational systems. Redundancy promotes alternative choices as long as a critical link does not weaken redundancy, whether because of technological or managerial actions. System knowledge reduces uncertainty but knowledge infrastructure can be a point of vulnerability when it is accessible to destruction or fails in the course of normal operations.

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