5 Ways Big Data Will Improve Civil Infrastructure
On August 1, 2007 as people were driving home from work on the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge near Minneapolis, it all of a sudden collapsed. Thirteen people died and 145 people were injured. The bridge was constructed in 1967 and was expected to carry 66.000 vehicles per day. However, in 2004 an estimated 141.000 vehicles crossed the bridge on a daily basis. That’s a big difference and turned out to be too much.
The quality of the civil infrastructure within a country, determines its economic possibilities as well as a society’s wealth and quality of life. Therefore, if the infrastructure such as roads, rail tracks and bridges are deteriorating, it could have a big impact on a society. The Federal Highway Administration reported that the costs resulting from the loss of a critical bridge or tunnel could exceed $10 billion.
As the Civil Infrastructure System Task Group of the National Science Foundation once stated: “A civilization that stops investing in its infrastructure takes the first step toward decline”. Infrastructure is important, but also expensive. Fortunately, Big Data can help to bring down costs while improving safety. Let’s have a look:
Monitoring Dikes to Prevent Flooding
In The Netherlands, the IJkdijk has been a decade-long project to improve dike monitoring and to develop sensor network technologies for early warning systems in case a dike is about to break. The initiative brought together a wide range of organizations that together worked on combining dike technology with sensors and data technology. This has resulted in a unique dike monitoring system that can highlight the conditions of a dike.
A central part of this is a system – the Dike Data Service Centre (DDSC) – that stores the data from the monitoring activities centrally and uniformly, which makes it suitable for analysis and processing.
The data derived from the high-tech dikes can also be used to detect many water-related environmental facts that affect the health of humans such as biological changes or pollutions. Also disasters on rivers and coastal waters can be detected.
The Smart Bridge is the Bridge of the Future
Of course what can be done for dikes, can also be done for other infrastructures such as bridges. Monitoring bridges’ structural health is more important than ever. In the USA alone it is estimated that 25% of the country’s 600.000 bridges have structural problems or obsolete design. Fortunately, falling costs in wireless sensors are enabling real-time monitoring of bridges and there are already several great examples of smart bridges around the world.
The Hollandse Brug
Again in The Netherlands, the Dutch government had to close the Hollandse Brug (Holland Bridge) for freight transportation in 2007. The bridge is one of the busiest highway bridges in The Netherlands and closing it cost a lot of money for the Dutch society.
When they were replacing the bridge deck and improving the construction of the bridge, they also installed 145 sensors. The sensors, ranging from vibration sensors, strain gauges to thermometers where embedded in the concrete and placed on the outside. Together these sensors create 1 terabyte of data per day and monitor the condition of the bridge in real-time.