Q&A: Talking with Jacobs Digital and Technology Director Asia, Andrew Bevan
Our Digital and Technology Director for Asia Andrew Bevan talks smart cities, digital and technology solutions addressing some of our market challenges and his recent move to #OurJacobs in Singapore.
We’re living in the era of digital disruption, and we need bold digital and technology leadership now more than ever. Leading this change demands knowledge, imagination, new thinking, an appetite to reinvent and the courage to challenge conventions.
In this series, we're celebrating our team of digital and technology experts and visionaries, spearheading the development and delivery of our technology-forward solutions for smarter working and better living in Asia Pacific.
For this feature, we caught up with Digital and Technology Director for Asia – Andrew Bevan, to talk about smart cities, digital and technology solutions addressing some of our market challenges on digitization and his recent move to #OurJacobs in Singapore.
Tell us about you and what excites you the most about your role.
I am the Digital and Technology Director for Asia, based in Singapore. I joined Jacobs less than a year ago. We’re a rapidly growing team, and it’s great to be playing a key role as we grow our digital and technology business in Asia. What excites me is the opportunity to work on a variety of initiatives across diverse topics. Also, working with various clients, industries and technologies make every day different and interesting.
Tell us more about digital and technology solutions and their role in addressing some of our market challenges.
Digital and technology solutions add value, increase efficiency and generate new insights for our clients. For instance, we have deep domain knowledge across many industries where legacy technology remains the norm. One of our roles is to help utilize new technology in these industries and cross-pollinate across all the sectors we serve. Some examples are 3D visualization and reality models to assess the visual impacts of new infrastructure and digital twins or intelligent asset management to ensure the data collected and generated during the design phases can be utilized efficiently during the operation and maintenance phases.
Today, our clients are asking for more technologically enabled infrastructure. They want self-monitoring assets to improve efficiency and safety and data analytics and data aggregated from disparate sources to churn out new insights. As our markets become more digitally enabled, they’re also becoming more exposed to cyberthreats and vulnerabilities. I am pleased to see cyber is an area of growth focus for Jacobs. While advocating the use of some of the world’s most advanced technologies in our client’s portfolios, we also consider the integrity and security of their businesses – not only during delivery but onward into operations and maintenance.
More specifically, can you tell us a bit more about the digital and technological trends and opportunities that are shaping the future of smart cities?
I’ve always found the topic of smart cities fascinating, as we all try to understand what it is and where it is leading. Smart cities have an indistinct definition that varies across cities, clients and geographies. However, there are similarities – one often discusses smart cities in the same context as sustainability and decarbonization, livability, economic growth, security, mobility etc.
There are lots of technologies we could use to illustrate the trends of smart cities; possibly digital twins, artificial intelligence and the various subsets of deep and machine learning, intelligent assets, big data analysis, connected and autonomous transport – the list is extensive. But what is consistent across all these technologies is the end-user and ultimately the citizen.
I believe that smart cities of the future will be influenced by the citizens themselves. They ultimately will decide which technologies and use-cases will add the most value to their lives – whether it’s sustainability, security, economic growth or the need for citizens to give away more of their data in exchange for smarter, personalized experiences. It’s a fascinating topic…one which I am proud to be discussing internally and with clients across the region.
You recently moved from Dubai to Singapore. How does the two compare in smart city developments?
Both cities are leading lights in the world of smart cities – they have great aspirations and are progressive in their smart city thinking and technology adoption.
Singapore has the advantage of being a more mature city, having developed both organically and inorganically over decades. With this maturity comes structure and purposeful direction in investment into country-wide initiatives such as the much-heralded Smart Nation. Also, Singapore places great value on the community and seeks to ensure technology is used to benefit the citizens and their lives.
Dubai has had the advantage of building most of its infrastructure in recent years when the speed of advancement in technology has been the greatest. As a result, they’re building digitally enabled solutions from the ground up, helping them become futureproofed, thus minimizing retrofitting or repurposing to meet changing trends. So, while there is a massive push for solutions that improve livability, Dubai also heavily focuses on embedding technology into infrastructure investments.
Both cities have world-class examples where they lead in technology adoption and smart city thinking and have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible. I see this as a healthy competition that presents an exciting time for me, having worked in both hugely progressive and technology-driven cities.
Let’s shift to the role of digital and technology in project delivery. What are some of the challenges and opportunities in tackling adoption for our clients in Asia?
We all want the latest gadgets and tech, but our role at Jacobs is to ensure our clients invest in solutions that deliver quantifiable value. One of our biggest opportunities is in supporting our clients to understand digital and technology in the context of their industry and the value that it can bring.
I think anyone who has worked in this space would have witnessed how clients request something new, innovative and state-of-the-art, and at the same time, also something done before with multiple project references to minimize risk and exposure.
Having worked client-side at the federal government level for many years, I fully appreciate these conflicting views. This is another fascinating aspect of my role at Jacobs, allowing me to work at the junction where innovation and technology meet conservatism and cautiousness. This is an opportunity for us to explore new business models, new services, and new ways of working to bring the latest technology to our clients while demonstrating our confidence in the value we deliver.
People would be surprised to know that …
I met my wife in Asia in 2000 when we were both backpacking. Even though we both spent the preceding four years at the same university in Bath, England, we never met there. It took eavesdropping on a lunchtime chat in a café in Penang, Malaysia to bring us together.
I play jazz piano and have played regularly in restaurants and bars in past years.
We have a few pet ant colonies at home... (the joys of having a ten-year-old son!)
Jacobs is a forward-looking, solution-driven company with a rich history in Asia Pacific, the U.S and Europe, delivering advanced solutions and technology. My role offers the opportunity to help Jacobs define, shape and build a new digital and technology portfolio and capability relevant for our Asia business.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?
Jacobs operates as a truly global company and being able to tap into expertise from the four corners of the world on a daily (and nightly!) basis makes it an exciting place to be.
And finally, how are you enjoying life in Singapore?
Having moved in during COVID-19, I don’t think I’ve seen the best Singapore has to offer yet, and we’re really excited to explore more as the city and country plan to open up.
Coming from a desert city, we had so much fun camping and spending time outside in the dunes during the winter. In Singapore, we love that the outdoor fun is all year round and as a family, we’ve really enjoyed spending the weekends cycling and walking and just exploring the city. My children love all the wildlife in the parks and green spaces throughout the city – they take catching tubes everywhere they go hoping to pick up and bring home the weirdest and wildest bug they can find - much to the distress of my wife!
Join #OurJacobs team
What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable.
We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.