News Jul 24, 2019

Turning Digital Disruption into Opportunities

Jacobs SVP, Technology and Innovation Heather L. Wishart-Smith shares our strategy to deliver intelligent and sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

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“There are so many different opportunities now with data, sensors, digital twins and more,” enthused Jacobs Senior Vice President, Technology and Innovation Heather L. Wishart-Smith in a recent interview with DesignIntelligence, a premier publication helping leaders and organizations understand the drivers of change and make more effective strategic decisions.

“As the built environment becomes more integrated, it needs to be supported by enabling capabilities such as cybersecurity, data analytics and geospatial,” she continued. And that’s where Jacobs comes in.

At Jacobs, Heather explained, we’re focused on four different solution areas: connected mobility, connected places, connected assets and connected delivery. These solutions are supported by accelerated innovation in cybersecurity, internet of things, predictive analytics, applied geospatial science and automated design through a wide range of initiatives and client engagements.

For example, what if we showed you how NASA and Jacobs are using intelligent asset management technologies to optimize operations and increase the life of more than 42,000 assets across 270 facilities at the NASA Langley site?

Or how  advanced Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and wireless data capabilities – designed by our team, in partnership with Cisco and s::can, for one major Veterans Administration Hospital – are paving the way for early detection of issues like potential Legionella growth, before they can harm water supplies or public health?

Additionally, our innovators and problem solvers actively share new ways to tackle the transformative trends challenging the status quo: urbanization, water scarcity, climate change, digital proliferation and security with our peers in the industry. At the recent Esri User Conference, focused on GIS—The Intelligent Nervous System, we provided insights on several geospatial solutions – and at the 2019 American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition, our water experts dove into how digital twin technologies are transforming water supplies for the future.

While digital disruption is changing the architecture/engineering/construction industry as we know it, these emerging technologies can even further make the world a better place by closing socioeconomic imbalances, protecting the environment and improving safety, points which the DesignIntelligence interview covers.

Through these many exciting and beneficial changes, it could be tempting to exclude guiding principles, Heather cautioned, and one of the most critical measures is data analytics. That’s why our fully integrated solutions are developed to protect our client’s systems and data, such as the Project Edmond effort, Jacobs’ demand-related data project for London’s public transport network. In that project we’ve taken the data from 400 million multimodal journeys and are using it to gain previously unattainable insight into crowd behavior and how people get around London.

The most impactful innovations though depend on the ability to embrace transformation not just in the solutions delivered for clients, but also from inside. That’s why we’re facilitating a culture of innovation among our employee community through our internal programs, Heather explained. “We are transforming our culture to change the way we think about our role in helping clients improve their performance.”

Among the methods the organization is exploring, it has set up working groups from across its enterprise to promote cross-discipline collaboration to address the technological challenges of a data-driven world. Jacobs also provides a framework for employees to submit innovative ideas at the local and regional levels and to submit for potential funding. It is also undertaking internal cultural initiatives to recognize and celebrate the employee innovators amongst its ranks, and it is encouraging greater dialogue and consideration of how its processes may be improved to deliver greater impact on meeting its clients’ needs.

“In today’s world, market leaders who ignore the digital revolution will become irrelevant,” she added. “Our goal is to help our clients harness the power of digital technologies and become a disrupter in their own industry.”

To read Heather’s full interview, sign up for a free BuildingDesign subscription here – and you won’t want to miss her best tips for success highlighted in this feature.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions – such as data-driven mobility, predictive asset management, online water quality monitoring and digital twin technology – for a more connected, sustainable world? Visit