How IoT sensors are helping predict failures and faults on German roads
By the Köln Ost junction on the A3 motorway in the North Rhine-Westphalia region in Germany, a group of engineers has mocked-up a 25,000 square-metre roadway network with a mash-up of internet-of-things (IoT) technologies in order to find ways to predict faults and failures in road infrastructure, both from environmental impacts, and rising traffic loads.
The point is to reduce maintenance, congestion and potential accidents on German roads.
Deutsche Telekom is supplying narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) connectivity to the project. German industrial tech firm BS2 Sicherheitssysteme has developed an RFID and NB-IoT digital monitoring solution for the test facility, opened in October 2017 by the Germany’s Federal Highway Research Institute, BASt.
The test facility, called duraBASt, operates parallel to the A3 motorway, a route that carrier over 200,000 vehicles per day. Its includes bridge structures, tunnel-like constructions, noise barriers, drainage installations, as well as open road sections. “The entire construct represents an extensive miniature model of today’s road traffic infrastructure and environment,” says Deutsche Telekom in a blog post.
Deutsche Telekom is most involved in the ‘smart bridge’ aspect, it says, which includes a modular, sensor-based system that records, monitors and evaluates changes to the impact and resistance on the bridge structure in near real time. Fifty sensors have been built into the road surface and edge beams of the bridge to measure temperature, humidity and corrosion – elements that affect reinforced steel in concrete structures.
Data from the sensors is transmitted via Deutsche Telekom’s NB-IoT network to a backend, for analysis, display, and continuous assessment. Traffic does not have to be interrupted to get a reading, and experts do not have to be deployed. The battery-less sensors can be fitted in both new and old structures, and last up to 70 years.
The BASt team’s main focus is to make the road infrastructure smart to extend its durability, and therefore to reduce maintenance, delays and potential hazards. The bridge structure is smart, says Deutsche Telekom, because it reveals warning signs long before they are visible in the concrete.
“This is welcome news to the Government, which needs to spend less of the tax payers’ money to invest in the maintenance of Germany’s road infrastructure. It is welcome news also to us motorists who will hopefully see less roadworks when we travel on Germany’s roads in the years ahead,” it says.