WSN for Smart Infrastructures: Business Prospects

Europe is on track for a large scale investment that will create a sustainable transport network with a project called “Connecting Europe Facility, aimed at increasing the benefits of pan-European freight and passenger traffic infrastructure projects. The Fund will have a capital of 40 billion euros and an additional 10 billion euros available from the Cohesion Fund. It will finance projects in transport, energy and information technologies. Over the next seven years. The European Commission had issued a statement that they will invest around €22bn solely in transport infrastructure while the US is set to double infrastructure funding and will spend $476 billion through 2018 on highway, bridge and mass transit projects. On the other hand, China said they will invest around nine percent of GDP on roads, power lines and bridges in the near future.

The use of sensors can contribute to these projects by creating a series of smart applications that may lead to a better and safer world. Throughout the years, many transport infrastructures-bridges, tunnels or viaducts-have collapsed due to natural disasters or because of poor maintenance. Therefore, monitoring bridges is one of the more successful applications of Smart Roads. For instance, the six-lane, 2.9 km Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge in Greece is outfitted with 100 sensors that monitor its condition. Soon after opening in 2004, the sensors detected abnormal vibrations in the cables holding the bridge, which led engineers to install additional weight to dampen the cables. The sensor networks for these kinds of bridges include accelerometers, strain gauges, anemometers, weigh-in-motion devices and temperature sensors.

Wireless sensors can also be used to monitor the state of road surfaces. Additionally, monitoring systems in tunnels are also widespread around the world. From air flow to visibility, and a wide range of gases (CO, CO2, NO2, O2, SH2 and PM-10) are the most demanded parameters to monitor air quality inside tunnels. At this time, many of these systems are wired installations: the deployment of Wireless Sensor Networks would save money, increase safety and reduce installation times.

future smart roadFuture Smart Roads applications are about to come to our lives, and most of them will improve our quality of life. According to Logan Ward in Popular Mechanics, American drivers log nearly twice as many kilometres as they did 25 years ago on roads that have increased in capacity by only 5 percent. The annual costs of traffic congestion keep rising, resulting in 3.7 billion hours of driver delays and 8.7 billion litres of wasted fuel. Can you imagine a smart road that is able to warn you of an alternative route to avoid traffic congestion a few kilometres away?

Road traffic fatalities are one of the most important causes of death globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 150,000 people will be killed on the roads by 2020, since cars will be more present in developing countries, increasing the number of vehicles on the world’s roads up to 2 billion.

Weather conditions affect road safety – therefore, the use of sensors and smart applications could reduce the number of road accidents. Smart Roads could take advantage of solar energy for power, clearing city streets of ice and snow by simply melting it away. Furthermore, temperature-responsive dynamic paint could be used to make ice crystals visible to drivers when cold weather makes road surfaces slippery.

Libelium is a company that designs and manufactures hardware technology for the implementation of wireless sensor networks so that system integrators, engineering and consultancy companies can implement reliable Smart Cities solutions to end users within the minimum time to market. Current and future Smart Roads applications can be carried out with Libelium´s horizontal solution. One of their products is the Waspmote wireless sensors. It has a number of characteristics that make them ideal for infrastructure usage, such as wireless communication capacities, autonomous power, security and small size. Waspmote devices have an internal lithium battery that allows them to run for months and even years, as part of an efficient energy management infrastructure system.

future smart 2Waspmote Plug&Sense ™

From monitoring a bridge to a tunnel, Waspmote already integrates an accelerometer and accommodates up to 8 different sensor boards, to cover all the previous described Smart Roads applications.

If you are interested in Waspmote, we will be glad to help you to design your system. You can request for a quotation of Waspmote here.