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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: 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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Bennett P (2010) Wireless sensor network for monitoring transport tunnels in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Geotechnical Engineering

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Hoult N (2010) Long-Term Wireless Structural Health Monitoring of the Ferriby Road Bridge in Journal of Bridge Engineering

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

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Hoult N.A. (2009) Smart infrastructure: Pervasive WSNs for a more sustainable Europe in Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure - Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure, SHMII 2009

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Hoult N.A. (2009) Challenges in Wireless Sensor Network Installation: Radio wave propagation in Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure - Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructure, SHMII 2009

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Liu, R. (2010) Relay node placement for Wireless Sensor Networks deployed in tunnels in 2010 IEEE 6th International Conference on Wireless and Mobile Computing, Networking and Communications (WiMob)

 
Description 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. Little is known of the long-term performance of such infrastructure. The fragility of old infrastructure also presents a challenge for new construction in congested urban environments. In this project, prototype wireless sensor network systems (WSN) coupled with advances in miniaturized sensors such as micro electrical mechanical sensors were developed and deployed in real field sites to evaluate their potentials to offer intriguing possibilities that can radically alter the paradigms underlying existing methods of condition assessment and monitoring.
The project between the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London comprised an interdisciplinary research team to investigate such potentials. In the first stage, the prototype WSN systems were deployed in different infrastructure types. The deployed sites included London Underground Tunnel, Humber Bridge and Thames Water's water supply system. In the second stage, a large scale WSN system (more than 100 WSN motes) was installed at the Hammersmith
Flyover and Station site in order to investigate the upscaling issues of the prototype WSNs. The project demonstrated 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. The field demonstrations provided opportunities to develop generic monitoring strategy among different infrastructure types in close cooperation with the industry partners. This includes identification of key parameters that can provide information of direct benefit to managers, selection of specific low cost sensors applicable to parameters required and determination of sample frequency for each sensor.
The complexity of WSN systems in real environment required research in the following areas: sensor systems, wireless communications, autonomous systems, information management, programming and design tools, trust security and privacy. Existing off-the-shelf WSN solutions provide limited options in terms of communication, sensor interface and programmability. 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-low-duty cycle applications. The field deployments highlighted the uncertainty in wireless communication. New propagation models and a WSN deployment tool were developed so that a more reliable WSN can be established in a given time available during the engineering hours of infrastructure maintenance. An algorithm to evaluate the location of sensor motes was developed for the underground environment where GPS is not available. Several communication protocols were also developed for better data communication and decision making. In collaboration with infrastructure owners, likely threats, vulnerabilities and attacks on WSN were identified and security policies and security targets were developed. A set of security codes were developed for the prototype WSNs.
Exploitation Route The technologies developed in this project can be commercialised through licensing to existing companies or setting up a spin-out company. For the wireless sensor network hardware developed in this project, a spin-out company was formed with support from Cambridge Enterprise, which is Cambridge University's technology transfer office. Further development of the other technologies for potential commercialisation is now initiated by establishing the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, which is funded by ESPRC and TSB.
Sectors Construction

 
Description The research outcome will be used by infrastructure owners. The immediate application is monitoring of safety critical elements where a failure of a key element is notified to managers. Parameters that give advanced warning of impending failure were identified and targeted for measurement. The WSN systems being developed here will allow their performance to be monitored during their working lives, which will lead to better design for future infrastructure. The need for high quality measurements is of importance to practitioners and is of interest within academic circles. Society as a whole will benefit from the improved use of ageing infrastructure.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Innovation Knowledge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction
Amount £4,956,319 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I019308/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2011 
End 03/2016
 
Description Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction - Collaborative Programme Tranche 1
Amount £2,311,585 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K000314/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2012 
End 09/2016
 
Description Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction - Collaborative Programme Tranche 2
Amount DZD 2,184,284 (DZD)
Funding ID EP/L010917/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2014 
End 09/2016
 
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