Tag Archives: infrastructure

Smart technologies in smart infrastructure creates smart building

To become a smart city, you need smart Technologies. Sensors and other meters are needed to collect and analyze data. Smart cities need to be able to check buildings, bridges, sea defenses and road and railway cuttings at the touch of a button. Engineers at Cambridge University are now developing technologies that will allow the conditions of these infrastructures to be monitored in unprecedented detail.

All the infrastructure, old and new, needs to be put under constant surveillance and this can be done with new technologies using wireless sensors and fiber optics. Strain, temperature, displacement, humidity or even a crack in the wall can be monitored. Researchers at the University are developing these technologies, called smart technologies, and they hope to bring them to the market by 2016. The University of Cambridge is working together for this project with industry and technology companies.

There already are a lot of sensor technologies, but they aren’t used routinely enough in infrastructure at the moment. The financial aspect of these technologies is also an issues at this point. Constant monitoring all the city’s infrastructure and maintaining it costs billions of pounds every year. So even a small improvement in efficiency can result in major savings.

Professor Robert Mair is the principal investigator of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC). CSIC is an innovative and knowledge centre that’s involved in the University’s Department of Engineering, Department of Architecture, Computer Laboratory and Judge Business School. Mair said that the project on smart technologies they are working on now is hugely exciting and important.

Because most of the UK’s infrastructure is more than 100 years old, infrastructure owners feel the need to be involved in the emerging technologies in sensors and data management. They can use these technologies to quantify and define the extent of ageing and the consequent remaining design life of their infrastructure.

So these new technologies have a lot of advantages for old infrastructure, but they are also of use for new infrastructures since they can lead to more efficient and economic construction of new infrastructure. This is because engineers will be able to better understand how infrastructure is performing during and after construction. This will lead to more informed decision-making and an improved performance-based design and construction process.

One of the key objectives of the research at the Cambridge University is looking for a way to remove the need for batteries in sensors. A project of CSIC is looking at using micro-electrical mechanical systems in which miniature devices and circuitry can be etched onto a silicon chip as part of the sensors. So they could be able to include a very small turbine to harness the wind power produced by passing trains in the tunnel, making the system entirely self-sufficient. The same technology can be used on bridges by for example using the vibrations from passing vehicles.

Another key research for the IKC is optical-fiber monitoring. Cambridge engineers installed optical fibers around the inside of the old brick tunnel when a new tunnel was built beneath the century-old Thames link tunnel in London.  These fibers continuously measure the changing strains and temperature at every single point along the fiber. Previously, engineers has to use conventional survey techniques to analyze the impact of the new tunnel. Now they can use this new optical fiber technology to measure strain directly and continuously. 

In the future, incorporating optical fibers and sensors during the construction process will enable an unprecedented level of ‘cradle to grave’ analysis of how our infrastructure actually performs. Over-estimation now goes into the use of many components in buildings and structures to guarantee safety. In the future, better monitoring would allow construction firms to make more accurate judgments about how much materials to use. Construction firms should have it easier to insert sensors and optical fibers into walls, facades and beam by adding them to components in the factory before they reach the building site. This is what can be called ‘smart’ building.

£17m has been granted to CSIC to conduct the research. £10m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board and another £7 from the industry collaborators. Professor Mair hopes that the Centre will have advanced the technology and the business cases sufficiently by 2016 and he hopes that they will be able to support their future through industry collaboration alone.

IBM about Smart Cities

Smart Cities. Although this sounds a bit futuristic, there are some companies that are already working hard to make this happen. They are developing and using sensors and software to make cities run more efficient and smooth and to improve the life of the citizens. Chris O’Connor, Vice President of engineering and smart city products at IBM talked about the smart city services. He gives a glimpse of how the first Smart Cities will look like.

Cities have always used the newest technologies to improve their infrastructure. And although the new technologies always seem smart, when we talk about smart technologies now, we mean working with sensors and software to improve the city. Smart cities place sensors on their infrastructure to gather as much data as possible. They will be able to know who is using water and how much, how busy the city centre is or where traffic is flowing. And the software can then analyze the data and use it to suggest actions, provide useful information or offer solutions to problems like traffic jams. So it’s up to the sensors and the software to make a city run better.

O’Connor said that it’s not needed for cities to invest a lot of money in the sensors since there already are a lot of sensors in cities that can be used. Examples are water meters, monitors for elevators, stop lights, toll booths, buses, taxis and parking tickets. Social media can also be used to gather useful information from residents. Cities can analyze the already public available tweets and status updates.

Some of the projects that IBM already set up are for example a water monitoring system in South Bend, Ind. And they also used sensors to link emergency response and transportation departments of Davao in the Philippines so the departments can better work together in emergencies. IBM uses a cloud service to run their systems so cities don’t need to install the software. They already set up about 2,000 similar projects over the last few years.

So the Smart City concept is on the right way, but there still is plenty of work to do. The systems should for example cooperate better. Now systems can easily communicate with sensors in the same category, like water sensors or transportation sensors. But in the future, even the transportation sensors and the water sensors have to be able to communicate. So companies need to develop a computing language that makes these systems work even better together.

The UK is getting ready for Smart Cities

The UK is getting ready for Smart Cities. They called in the help of the British Standard Institution (BSI) to help shape the future of Britain’s Smart Cities. Dr Scott Steedman, Director of the British Standards Institution, said that Britain’s cities can decide the pace in exploiting Smart City thinking for the future. The UK already has a vision for the cities of the future and now, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has asked the BSI to carry out a study. This study should formulate a strategy for Smart Cities in the UK and should help realize the future cities.

Cities now are facing increasing pressure on their resources. So there is a need for Smart technologies that can revolutionize the efficiency and sustainability of urban communities. The BSI is therefore looking at how best practiced codes and standards for Smart technologies could bring substantial benefits to services like healthcare, transport, utilities and waste management by integrating data from sensors across the urban environment.

The concept of Smart Cities in the process of urbanization is high on the political agenda of both the UK and other European countries. What makes cities Smart Cities is that they use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and they integrate this with the services that a city delivers.  A good example of Smart technology is that weather information can be combined with traffic sensors to anticipate congestion and keep traffic moving. Or leaks in water networks could be detected automatically.

Dr Steedman also explained that an essential first step in creating Smart Cities is agreeing on how knowledge and standards can set the principles by which a Smart City works and the technology that will drive it forwards. The Smart City concept will only work when infrastructure and service delivery channels support the objectives of city planners across environmental performance, healthcare and promoting sustainable growth. But it’s not just about infrastructure, it’s also about sensing what is about to happen in the urban environment and having systems or people that can take appropriate actions.

So BSI is helping to shape the strategy. But to do that, it needs the input and expertise from governments and local authorities procuring Smart City technologies. They need researchers, regulators and consumer groups who represent those using Smart City developments. And they need manufacturers and service providers who can supply Smart City solutions.

The strategy that BSI is making will identify the needs and concerns of all the stakeholders and it will also explore where standards might facilitate the wider uptake of the Smart Cities concept. So the strategy will look at what cities are trying to achieve, what needs to be in place to help cities provide Smart services and how issues like privacy can be managed.