Building a bridge between IT and OT in the infrastructure

  • 13 October 2022
  • 6 min

For a civil engineering firm or construction consortium in groundwork, road construction, and hydraulics, the automation of control and management assets is often no more than a small part of the total scope, but a considerable part of the complexity.

ICT Group has been taking care of the entire automation, and the corresponding risks, for many years. By additionally building bridges between IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) as a project partner, the ‘best digital transformer’ of the Netherlands guarantees optimum asset security, availability, and reliability.

ICT Group has been automating processes and providing the corresponding information since 1978, long before the term ICT became general knowledge. “We are originally a technical IT company and we are focused on the technical aspects of the information technology in the food, pharma, logistics, automotive, infrastructure, and other industries. This means that, in addition to the traditional IT, we are also committed to embedded systems and process automation (OT) of assets in the critical infrastructure, such as pumping stations, roads, bridges, tunnels, and floodgates”, says Eric van der Laan, business development manager for ICT Group's Water and Energy department.

Turnkey project partner

Although automation has always been a secondment market in the infrastructure industry, ICT Group gladly operates as a project partner because this is what today's market needs.

“Infrastructure projects are generally assigned, as a whole, to a contractor or construction consortium, we then act as a turnkey project partner for the automation within that combination”
- Herman Kraaij, Business Development Manager for ICT Group's infrastructure department.

“A recent example of this is our contribution to the Blankenburg connection. By order of construction consortium BAAK, we developed, tested, and proved the total automation package. The software was ready even before any technical installation had been built.” Van der Laan: “This way, we do not only take away the construction consortium's worries, but also improve the efficiency and reduce risks. The responsibility lies with the party that can carry it, has the required knowledge, and knows what aspects need extra attention in the preliminary phase to avoid problems with the realisation.”


ICT Group's Water, Infrastructure, and Energy business unit mainly works on the critical infrastructure in which aspects such as safety, reliability, and availability are key. We know what this means for the automation and computerisation, and that is our true value. As a technical IT party in the Water, Infrastructure, and Energy industry, we are used to combining both domains (IT and OT) and complementing each other”, says Van der Laan. “We have our own process and IT engineers who have many years of experience and are able to translate the aspects of safety, reliability, and availability into concrete IT and OT applications. As IT and OT are now being developed in a more and more integrated way, projects involve much more teamwork and interaction between stakeholders and contractors than they used to with the traditional tenders. There are more options that require detailed agreements regarding what is needed exactly, whether you use the advancing insights or not.”

Complex controllability

Apart from the new assets to be built, the Netherlands is facing a huge challenge regarding the renovation of bridges, floodgates, and tunnels that were built in the 60's and 70's. “Those will need to be renovated and digitalised at a large scale over the next few years”, says Kraaij. “We notice an increasing demand for smart assets to anticipate situations in a data-driven (and therefore better) way. Moreover, the automation domain affects far more aspects than just the structure itself, as they are often controlled from a central place and are part of a network of the Ministry of Waterways and Public Works, the province, or the municipality. The energy needed to safeguard the availability and the maintenance service to guarantee continuity are usually supplied or provided from outside the object as well. This means that our area of expertise is much larger than just the project. Automation means complex controllability, often with a lot of stakeholders who are not involved with the project, but are needed to design the project properly.”

“In short, we need more knowledge and more information to eventually optimise the management activities of an object in terms of safety, reliability, and availability.”, says Van der Laan. “We need to base our actions on facts rather than our gut feeling. The beauty of it is that we always learn from the best practises in the various markets in which we are active. That accelerates the digital transformation, also regarding infrastructure.” MT/Sprout recently named ICT Group best Digital Transformer of the Netherlands in the category of Software, Development & Platforms/Enablers-Overall. “A great step that boosts our ambition to strengthen our leading position in the digital transformation for the infrastructure.”

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Herman Kraaij