The Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Evaluation (PRIME) System: Automating Decision-Support and Enabling Intelligent Earthworks Management

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Geological Survey
Department Name: Engineering Geology

Abstract

This project aims to develop a low cost ground imaging system (PRIME - Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Evaluation) for remote monitoring of infrastructure earthwork assets. PRIME will assess the condition of the earthworks on a continuous 24/7 basis, helping to predict failures and enable timely intervention. Conventional asset monitoring involves examining the surface (either by people on the ground or from aerial photos) and using point sensors, like moisture content and tilt meters, which only give information in the immediate vicinity of the sensor. But PRIME will use geophysics to 'see inside' the earthworks, enabling volumetric tracking of moisture content changes and ground movement, and so identifying problems at a much earlier stage.

The development of PRIME is driven by the increasing rate and severity of infrastructure earthwork failures. This is due to aging assets (many canal and rail earthworks are over a hundred years old) and more extreme weather events (e.g. the extreme rainfall during winter 2013-14). Asset failures are enormously expensive, costing hundreds of millions of pounds per year in the UK alone, not to mention risks to human health and disruption of services, transport systems and the wider economy. There is growing recognition among asset owners, managers, and consultants that remote monitoring technologies have the potential to reduce these costs and risks by providing continuous condition information and early warnings of failure.

To this end, low-cost PRIME hardware has already been successfully developed and demonstrated during a pilot phase project. But in an operational environment, the processing and interpretation of the large volumes of data that PRIME will produce must be automated for the technology to be commercially viable. Manual oversight of the systems simply would not be able to deliver cost-effective near real-time condition assessments and early warnings over extended monitoring periods. To address this, the project aims to develop a fully-automated data processing, image analysis and decision support system for PRIME. Methods already used in medical physics will be employed to recognise conditions likely to give rise to failure and will automatically generate alarms. The near real-time interpretation of the earthwork condition will be provided by an end-user interface (the dashboard), which will also enable PRIME information to be exported to, and interface with, industry-standard monitoring systems. The system will be validated at two test sites on operational rail and waterways infrastructure, and its development will be steered by a broad consortium of stakeholders to ensure that the technology is fit-for-purpose.

Implementation of the PRIME information delivery system will represent a step-change in asset condition monitoring, providing high frequency subsurface information at unprecedented resolution. This will facilitate a powerful new approach to near-real-time decision-support and early warning, which will provide the information necessary to implement low-cost early interventions and avoid catastrophic very high cost infrastructure failures. Moreover, the development and commercialisation of PRIME will enable specialist consultants and technology companies to provide cutting edge services and monitoring solutions. By the end of the project, the aim is to have developed and demonstrated PRIME technology to a point where it is ready to be translated to the commercial sector.

Stakeholders: Arup; Atkins; Network Rail; Canal and River Trust; Scottish Canals; National Grid; HS2; Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB); ITM Monitoring; GeoSense; Transport Scotland.

Keywords: Remote monitoring; early warning; subsurface information; geophysical imaging; environmental risks; infrastructure condition.

Planned Impact

The primary outcome will be a new decision support system and methodology for monitoring safety critical geotechnical assets, which will be proven to TRL 7, enabling a step-change in the way geotechnical assets are managed. This will benefit asset owners and managers by providing remotely monitored high spatial and temporal resolution information on the internal condition of geotechnical assets. It will be applicable to activities including; (1) monitoring high risk structures; (2) short term monitoring to determine whether intervention is required; and (3) monitoring to verify success of remedial activities. This will facilitate a proactive approach to asset management and positively impact business operation by identifying poor asset condition at an early stage (enabling low cost remediation), minimising unnecessary renewals, providing early warning of potential failure events, and reducing the need for people to enter potentially hazardous operational environments.

The potential commercial opportunity for stakeholders providing specialist monitoring technology and consultancy services is very substantial. The scale of the infrastructure asset portfolio is huge in the UK alone. For example, Network Rail has 20,000 km of embankments and cuttings (900 km of which is exhibiting actual/incipient failure) with £250 m/yr set aside for intelligent infrastructure capabilities; Canal and River Trust and Scottish Canals have 10,000 principal infrastructure assets many of which are >200 yrs old and require significant intervention or monitoring; HS2 will construct hundreds of geotechnical assets for which installation of monitoring technology during construction is proposed. In addition, PRIME will be applicable to transportation and utilities assets internationally, and in other market sectors, such as groundwater and contaminated land. Project partners will benefit from steering the development of the technology to ensure its applicability to their sector, and will be wel-placed to become early adopters and providers of PRIME.
 
Description The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the capability of PRIME hardware at partner sites for an additional 6 months, thereby extending the monitoring period to an entire 12 month seasonal cycle. The additional monitoring (completed in June 2016) has unequivocally demonstrated the reliability of the new hardware, and the value of the decision support information provided by the system. Key outcomes include:
(1) The system has been proven to be able to cost-effectively detect and monitor leakage from the canal embankment test site (Llangynidrr, Brecon Beacons). CRT and SC have confirmed that information provided by the PRIME system at the test site would trigger interventions in operational canal settings.
(2) The monitoring results from the rail cutting pilot (Old Dalby, Nottingham) have demonstrated that the system can identify drainage patterns and the influence of vegetation on subsurface moisture conditions - information that NR require for drainage management and decision support at sites with marginal/poor asset condition. Network Rail have also identified that a key benefit of the system is the in-situ verification of soil moisture index (SMI), which is an important parameter in earthworks asset management.
(3) At the recommendation of industry partners, a responsive monitoring capability has been implemented - point sensors (e.g. rainfall or soil moisture) attached to the system will now trigger an email alarm and automatically increase the PRIME system monitoring frequency if pre-specified soil moisture or rainfall levels are exceeded.
We and our industry partners are highly confident that these outcomes represent a very sound basis on which to proceed with the next phase of PRIME development (see 'What next?' below). Industry partners have also already initiated discussions for the immediate commercial deployment of PRIME on their assets even though the final stage of software development has not yet been completed - thereby demonstrating their confidence in the technology.
Exploitation Route The final phase of PRIME development, the new ERIIP-funded 'PRIME: Enabling Intelligent Earthworks Management" project (NE/P00914X/1), began in January 2017. This project is focussed on developing the software needed to fully automate the data processing and information delivery workflow. This will reduce the need for manual input and provide a web-based decision support dashboard. In addition, the range of demonstration sites will be extended to include highways, flood defence and energy supply infrastructure.
The final integrated PRIME system (hardware & software), combining state-of-the-art geophysical ground imaging technology with wireless telemetry, 'big data' handling, and web portal access, will form the basis of a new generation of intelligent decision-support technology capable of 'seeing inside' vulnerable earthworks in near-real-time using diagnostic imaging methods routinely used in medical physics. By the end of the new project, the software and hardware will be demonstrated to technology readiness level (TRL) 7 at new and existing stakeholder sites, ready for commercialisation and use by the wider stakeholder community.
Sectors Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

 
Description The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the capability of PRIME hardware at partner sites for an additional 6 months, thereby extending the monitoring period to an entire 12 month seasonal cycle. The additional monitoring (completed in June 2016) has unequivocally demonstrated the reliability of the new hardware, and the value of the decision support information provided by the system. Key outcomes include: (1) The system has been proven to be able to cost-effectively detect and monitor leakage from the canal embankment test site (Llangynidrr, Brecon Beacons). CRT and SC have confirmed that information provided by the PRIME system at the test site would trigger interventions in operational canal settings. (2) The monitoring results from the rail cutting pilot (Old Dalby, Nottingham) have demonstrated that the system can identify drainage patterns and the influence of vegetation on subsurface moisture conditions - information that NR require for drainage management and decision support at sites with marginal/poor asset condition. Network Rail have also identified that a key benefit of the system is the in-situ verification of soil moisture index (SMI), which is an important parameter in earthworks asset management. (3) At the recommendation of industry partners, a responsive monitoring capability has been implemented - point sensors (e.g. rainfall or soil moisture) attached to the system will now trigger an email alarm and automatically increase the PRIME system monitoring frequency if pre-specified soil moisture or rainfall levels are exceeded. We and our industry partners are highly confident that these outcomes represent a very sound basis on which to proceed with the next phase of PRIME development (see 'What next?' below). Industry partners have also already initiated discussions for the immediate commercial deployment of PRIME on their assets even though the final stage of software development has not yet been completed - thereby demonstrating their confidence in the technology.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme
Amount £205,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P00914X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2016 
End 06/2018
 
Description AMRITA - India 
Organisation Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences
Country India 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Reconnaissance trip in advance of installation of landslide monitoring system.
Collaborator Contribution Hosting project staff and collaborating with the installation of new landslide monitoring technology.
Impact Too early.
Start Year 2017
 
Description ARUP 
Organisation Arup Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact Ongoing - project just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ATKINS 
Organisation WS Atkins
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact Ongoing - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description CNR-IMAA 
Organisation National Research Council
Country Italy 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Shared experience of landslide characterisation and monitoring. Hosted a visit by researchers from CNR-IMAA.
Collaborator Contribution Shared experience of landslide characterisation and monitoring. Hosted a visit by researchers from BGS.
Impact Too early.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Canal & River Trust 
Organisation Canal & River Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Advice and expertise on the stability of geotechnical assets. Information on new and emerging technology that will be potentially beneficial to the partner.
Collaborator Contribution Steerage of technology development project. Provision of test site for technology demonstration. Provision of data and information. Health and safety advice and support for technology installation at demonstration site.
Impact New geophysical monitoring instrument (PRIME). New demonstration site on operational railway. New monitoring data arising from the test site. Conference papers.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Environment Agency 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Steering group member, provision of test site, site support and logistics.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Geosense 
Organisation Geosense
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description HS2 
Organisation High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact On-going - project only just starting.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Highways England 
Organisation Department of Transport
Department Highways Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member, provision of test site, site support and logistics.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ITM Monitoring 
Organisation ITM Monitoring
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Kier 
Organisation Kier Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member. Pilot site support and logistics.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description National Grid 
Organisation The National Grid Co plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member, provision of pilot site, site support and logistics.
Impact On-going - project has only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Network Rail 
Organisation Network Rail Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Advice and expertise on the stability of geotechnical assets. Information on new and emerging technology that will be potentially beneficial to the partner.
Collaborator Contribution Steerage of technology development project. Provision of test site for technology demonstration. Provision of data and information. Health and safety advice and support for technology installation at demonstration site.
Impact New geophysical monitoring instrument (PRIME). New demonstration site on operational railway. New monitoring data arising from the test site. Conference papers.
Start Year 2013
 
Description RSSB 
Organisation Rail Safety and Standards Board
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Scottish Canals 
Organisation Scottish Canals
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Advice and expertise on the stability of geotechnical assets. Information on new and emerging technology that will be potentially beneficial to the partner.
Collaborator Contribution Steerage of technology development project. Provision of data and information.
Impact New geophysical monitoring instrument (PRIME). Conference papers.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Transport Scotland 
Organisation Transport Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Project leader.
Collaborator Contribution Project steering group member.
Impact On-going - project only just started.
Start Year 2016
 
Description University of Parma 
Organisation University of Parma
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sharing expertise and experience in landslide and slope stability monitoring. Hosting visits by partners - including trips to field sites.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing expertise and experience in landslide and slope stability monitoring. Hosting visits by partners - including trips to field sites.
Impact Too early.
Start Year 2016
 
Title Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Evaluation System 
Description A new low-cost low-power geophysical ground imaging and monitoring instrument. The IPR for the system is owned by BGS. 
IP Reference  
Protection Protection not required
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Commercial monitoring work using the new system has been undertaken.
 
Title Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Evaluation (PRIME) system 
Description New low-cost low-power geophysical ground imaging and monitoring instrument. 
Type Of Technology Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The new hardware system is being deployed for commercial work. 
 
Description CIRIA/NERC-ERIIP Webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A showcase of NERC-funded innovation projects that take the outcomes of existing research and translate these into industry-relevant information and tools to help UK infrastructure identify environmental risks, assess their impacts on infrastructure and develop solutions. This webinar will focus on the risks posed by geological hazards to infrastructure. I presented on PRIME technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ciria.org/CIRIA/Navigation/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=E17701
 
Description Energy Networks Association - Invited Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited talk to Energy Networks Association Working Group, Horseferry Road, London, to discuss PRIME technology in relation to flood risk to energy networks. Audience include National Grid and representative of most of the UK energy supply companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Geophysics for Critical Infrastructure, Meeting of the Geological Society, Nottingham, 16th July 2015. Talk title: 'Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Evaluation: automated time-lapse resistivity imaging for the assessment and management of infrastructure earthworks' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk given on PRIME technology at Geological Society meeting. The purpose of the talk was to disseminate knowledge and information about the new developed PRIME geophysical monitoring technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.bgs.ac.uk/news/diary/gci-programme.pdf
 
Description Ground Engineering Instrumentation and Monitoring Workshop - Invited Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation given to an audience of civil engineers.

Chambers, JE, 2016. The management and delivery of subsurface information from non-invasive ground imaging systems. Ground Engineering Instrumentation and Monitoring 2017, Asset Condition Monitoring Workshop, London, 15 March 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Hosting of the Geotechnical Asset Owners Forum, BGS, Nottingham, 3rd March 2016. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was involved in hosting the Geotechnical Asset Owners Forum (GAOF) at BGS on 3rd March 2016. GAOF comprises representatives of the major UK geotechnical asset owners including Network Rail, London Underground, Scottish Canals, Canal and River Trust, Highways Agency and Scottish Transport. GAOF requested to hold their meeting at BGS so they could review the PRIME technology and visit the PRIME test site.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited keynote - "Electrical imaging methods in geotechnical applications: From site investigation to near-real-time monitoring and decision support" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference keynote talk. ISSMGE, 7th International Symposium on Deformation Characteristics of Geomaterials, Glasgow, 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited talk - "Remote-condition-monitoring of critical geotechnical infrastructure - towards a practical geophysical solution" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk, 2019. Remote-condition-monitoring of critical geotechnical infrastructure - towards a practical geophysical solution. Geophysics in the Critical Zone, Geological Society, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited talk - "Towards an improved geotechnical understanding of landslide hazard from ground-based geophysical survey and monitoring", AGU Fall Meeting 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact For slope-scale forecasting of moisture driven landslide events (in both natural and engineered slopes), the complex subsurface structure (materials, strata) and hydrogeology need to be characterized and understood in 3D, and at resolutions and timescales consistent with the processes driving slope failure. Recent years have seen key advances in several relevant and complementary areas including 3D geomechanical approaches to slope stability modelling and the 3D characterisation and 4D monitoring of slopes using geotechnical and geophysical approaches (e.g. geoelectrical, seismic). There is a growing interest in linking hydrogeological and geomechanical models to improve understanding of landslide failure processes, but progress has been limited by an inability to provide high spatial and temporal resolution input data on the physical properties of the subsurface (e.g. strength, composition) and changes associated with hydraulic processes (e.g. pore pressure, moisture content). The hypothesis that we are ultimately seeking to test is that recent advances in hydrogeophysical and geotechnical monitoring can now provide timely information to inform and update geomechanical models - thereby enabling near-real-time estimates of stability (e.g. slope factor of safety) to aid forecasting of landslide events at the slope scale.
Here we present results from a range of studies deploying geophysical approaches to characterise and monitor unstable natural and engineered slopes. We demonstrate the use of these approaches (supported by laboratory based determinations of geophysical-geotechnical property relationships) to provide an improved assessment of geological heterogeneity and the development of 3D ground models, and the long-term monitoring of moisture driven processes within the slopes. We conclude with an initial consideration of how geophysical monitoring results can directly inform geomechanical models of slope stability.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Keynote at World Canals Conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Chambers, JE, 2016. Remote condition assessment of canal earthworks using novel geophysical monitoring technologies. World Canals Conference (Keynote), Inverness, 19 September 2016.

Talk given to a mixed audience of engineers, volunteers, government (including cabinet member of Scottish Government).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://wccscotland.com/speakers/
 
Description NERC ERIIP Brokerage Event - Invited Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited presentation on 'Innovation Success' relating to the NERC ERIIP PRIME project. Given to a mixed audience of industry and academics.

Chambers, JE, 2016. The Proactive Infrastructure Monitoring and Evaluation (PRIME). NERC Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme brokerage event. London, 8th March 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description US Transportation Research Board - Webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine - Transportation Research Board Webinar. The goal of the webinar was to provide training to (1) recognize geotechnical related applications using electrical resistivity, and (2) understand how to use electrical resistivity to assess site variability and assist in the rapid site characterization for transportation project delivery. The audience was approximately 350.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.trb.org/Calendar/Blurbs/174866.aspx
 
Description Visit to National Research Council of Italy - Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis (CNR-IMAA), 5th to 6th November. Talk title: 'The development of time-lapse electrical imaging for landslide and infrastructure monitoring' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Visit and talk given at CNR, Italy. Purpose of the visit was for knowledge exchange in the area of technologies for monitoring unstable slopes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Visit to the University of Parma 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Visit to the University of Parma to give an invited lecture and to discuss potential collaboration. New links made with a number of academics, postgraduate students and practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017