Smart Infrastructure: Wireless sensor network system for condition assessment and monitoring of infrastructure

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering

Abstract

One of the greatest challenges facing civil engineers in the 21st century is the stewardship of ageing infrastructure. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the networks of tunnels, pipelines and bridges that lie beneath and above the major cities around the world. Much of this infrastructure was constructed more than half a century ago and there is widespread evidence of its deterioration. Tunnels, particularly old ones, are prone to being influenced by activities such as adjacent construction, for instance piling, deep excavations and other tunnel construction. Excessive leakage and pipe bursts are frequent and usually unanticipated. Importantly, underground structures often cannot be inspected when they are being used by trains or due to other physical constraints. The fragility of old infrastructure also presents a challenge for new construction in congested urban environments. Little is known of the long-term performance of such infrastructure. These uncertainties and the importance of safety to users and consumers prompted the initiation of recent research projects investigating the prospect of damage detection and decision making and the use of novel materials to mitigate damage. Advances in the development of innovative sensors such as fibre optic sensors and micro electrical mechanical sensors (MEMS) offer intriguing possibilities that can radically alter the paradigms underlying existing methods of condition assessment and monitoring. Future monitoring systems will undoubtedly comprise Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) and will be designed around the capabilities of autonomous nodes. Each node in the network will integrate specific sensing capabilities with communication, data processing and power supply. It is therefore the objective of this proposal to demonstrate how large numbers of sensors can be integrated into large-scale engineering systems to improve performance and extend the lifetime of infrastructure, while continuously evaluating and managing uncertainties and risks. This proposal is a joint project between the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London and comprises an integrated research program to evaluate and develop prototype WSN systems. The main objectives of this proposal are to bridge advances in modelling large-scale engineering infrastructure with advances in wireless sensor networks and to develop a low-cost smart sensing environment for monitoring ageing public infrastructure. Three application domains will be studied in detail: (i) monitoring water supply and sewer systems and (ii) monitoring tunnels and (iii) monitoring bridges. The complexity of the monitoring system requires the following research areas to be explored : sensor systems, wireless communications, autonomous systems, information management, programming and design tools, trust security and privacy, systems theory, human factors and social issues. Field trials will be carried out with London Underground Ltd., Thames Water, Highways Agency and Humber Bridge. Intel Corporation will support the project with hardware for the trials.

Publications

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Bachir A (2010) MAC Essentials for Wireless Sensor Networks in IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials

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Bachir A (2009) Preamble sampling MAC protocols with persistent receivers in wireless sensor networks in IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications

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Díaz M (2011) Efficient data aggregation and transport in wireless sensor networks in Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing

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Hoult N (2009) Wireless sensor networks: creating 'smart infrastructure' in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Civil Engineering

 
Description In this project, prototype wireless sensor network systems coupled with advances in miniaturized sensors such as micro electrical mechanical sensors were developed and deployed in real infrastructure field sites to evaluate their potentials to offer intriguing possibilities that can radically alter the paradigms underlying existing methods of infrastructure condition assessment and monitoring. Application specific sensing solutions were developed by integrating advances and knowledge in embedded hardware and software design. The development allowed us to successfully cover both high-frequency-high duty cycle applications and low-frequency-Iow-duty cycle applications.
Exploitation Route Research was undertaken in collaboration with infrastructure managers (water companies, highways authorities, etc.), who will incorporate findings and tools into their future R&D activities. Further research and development work is on-going at Imperial College and Cambridge University supported by other funding sources.
Sectors Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Transport

 
Description Findings and prototype devices have been incorporated in to R&D activities of infrastructure managers (e.g. water utilities, highways agencies, London Transport, etc.).
 
Description British Telecommunications Plc 
Organisation BT Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Highways Agency 
Organisation Department of Transport
Department Highways Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Humber Bridge Board 
Organisation Humber Bridge Board
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Intel Corporation 
Organisation Intel Corporation
Country United States 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description London Underground Ltd 
Organisation Transport for London
Department London Underground
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Thames Water Utilities Limited 
Organisation Thames Water Utilities Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Transport for London 
Organisation Transport for London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Tube Lines Ltd 
Organisation Tube Lines Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Yorkshire Water 
Organisation Yorkshire Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Title Improved Non- GPS Positioning Systems 
Description Wireless sensors are expected to be widely deployed in the near future for a vast variety of applications. Sensing data is not useful unless the location where the data is collected is also known to the end users. Although much work has been done on the positioning of sensor nodes, proposed algorithms often are not applicable in certain environments. Furthermore, there is always a need to reduce their complexity and cost, and to improve accuracy for these algorithms. This disclosure is primarily motivated by a new research project called WINES to deploy wireless sensors to monitor the conditions of London underground and water systems. Global Positioning System (GPS) based positioning methods are not applicable in the underground environments. In addition, the tunnels and water pipes are not located at the same horizontal level, so existing algorithms proposed for two-dimensional deployment areas become inadequate. To overcome the challenge, we develop here a new localization algorithm by extending one proposed for two-dimensional service areas by Capkun et al. Our new scheme is a distributed, self-organized, infrastructure-free positioning algorithm that enables easy and flexible sensor deployment in the harsh environments. Furthermore, our computer simulation reveals that the new scheme achieves a satisfactory, relative average position error of less than 5% when the errors for distance estimations among sensors have a standard deviation of no more than 5%. 
IP Reference WO2008102098 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2008
Licensed No
Impact None