Civil infrastructure becomes weak over the course of years and monitoring every such infrastructure could prove to be a hassle. Luckily, a team of scientists is hopeful that crowdsourced data collection can be used for the sake of monitoring old civil infrastructure, thus helping save lives. The team is from the University of Missouri and has come up with a smartphone-based technology that can be used by anyone for the sake of reporting on the condition of America’s disintegrating civil infrastructure.
American Society of Civil Engineers recently published a report that graded the United States infrastructure such as roads and bridges with a D+ rating on an A-F scale i.e. Similar to Morandi bridge that collapsed in Genoa, Italy. American infrastructure is slowly decaying and costs billions of dollars to the economy and can also claim lives.
Monitoring the infrastructure across the US is important but coming up with such a system would not only cost millions but will also take too long to set up. The scientists from the University of Missouri thought of an alternative; a sensor that relies on the current smartphone technology for transmission of data wirelessly to a database while the user is on the move. Amir Alavi, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the MU College of Engineering, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering said, ‘Many of the existing methods to monitor our civil infrastructure systems have technical issues and are not user-centered. People are looking for smart, cost-effective, scalable and user-centered approaches. With current advances in technology, people can help monitor or detect problems using their own devices, and smartphone technology allows us to do that with civil infrastructure.’
Alavi made use of experience from Bill Buttlar, the Glen Barton Chair of Flexible Pavement Technology, for coming up with this creative solution for the sake of monitoring bridges and roads. Buttlar said, ‘Assessing roads, bridges, and airfields with affordable sensors, such as those found in smartphones, really work. With a smartphone, we can stitch together many inexpensive measurements to accurately assess things like the roughness or deterioration of a road surface. In a recent project sponsored by the Missouri Department of Transportation, we also showed that it could accurately assess the condition of airport runways and taxiways.’
The prevalent method of carrying out an assessment of infrastructure demands the shutting down of bridges or roads. A sample is collected and then compared to a baseline. The exercise wreaks havoc for traffic, is costly, and time-consuming. On the other hand, using crowdsourced data collection via smartphones is an alternative that is economical and also much more effective.
The study has been named ‘An overview of smartphone technology for citizen-centered, real-time and scalable civil infrastructure monitoring’ and has been published in the recent edition of Future Generation Computer Systems.