Wireless Sensor Networks for Smart Infrastructures: A Billion Dollar Business Opportunity
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. One of the best examples is the bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 that killed 13 people and injured 145. In 2008, this bridge was re-built using a sensing system to collect data regarding structural behavior and corrosion.
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. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) carried out a research project to detect the number of potholes in a road, using Boston taxis to cover the entire city. A similar approach was undertaken by the University of Sri Lanka to monitor Sri Lanka´s roads.
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.
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