Nav: Home

MU scientists use smartphones to improve dismal rating of nation's civil infrastructure

February 11, 2019

In the United States, aging civil infrastructure systems are deteriorating on a massive scale. A recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave these systems a D+ rating nationwide on an A - F scale. Now scientists at the University of Missouri have developed smartphone-based technologies that can monitor civil infrastructure systems such as crumbing roads and aging bridges, potentially saving millions of lives.

Based on estimations, researchers say the failure of civil infrastructure systems, such as roads and bridges, could cause a 1 percent reduction in the U.S. GDP. In 2017, that number was $200 billion. The challenges of the aging civil infrastructure systems suggest the need for developing innovative monitoring solutions. By using various sensors on smartphones such as a gyroscope, an accelerometer to measure speed, and camera, or tiny external sensors such as an infrared sensor, scientists can determine the specific makeup and deterioration of a road's surface in real-time. However, scientists won't be collecting all of the data. Once the sensor is plugged into a smartphone, any person will be able to effortlessly transmit the data wirelessly to a database while riding on a road. Researchers hope the large amount of data collected by crowdsourcing this technology will allow for better informed decisions about the health of roads and bridges.

"Many of the existing methods to monitor our civil infrastructure systems have technical issues and are not user-centered," said Amir Alavi, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the MU College of Engineering, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering. "People are looking for smart, cost effective, scalable and user-centered approaches. With current advances in technology, people can help monitor or detect problems using their own devices, and smartphone technology allows us to do that with civil infrastructure."

Alavi partnered with Bill Buttlar, the Glen Barton Chair of Flexible Pavement Technology, to develop this innovative solution to monitor roads and bridges.

"Assessing roads, bridges and airfields with affordable sensors, such as those found in smartphones, really works," Buttlar said. "With a smartphone, we can stitch together many inexpensive measurements to accurately assess things like the roughness or deterioration of a road surface. In a recent project sponsored by the Missouri Department of Transportation, we also showed that it can accurately assess the condition of airport runways and taxiways."

The study, "An overview of smartphone technology for citizen-centered, real-time and scalable civil infrastructure monitoring," was published in Future Generation Computer Systems. Funding for this study was provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.
-end-


University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Engineering Articles:

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.
Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.
Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.
New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.
Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.
Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.
Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.
What can snakes teach us about engineering friction?
If you want to know how to make a sneaker with better traction, just ask a snake.
Engineering a plastic-eating enzyme
Scientists have engineered an enzyme which can digest some of our most commonly polluting plastics, providing a potential solution to one of the world's biggest environmental problems.
A new way to do metabolic engineering
University of Illinois researchers have created a novel metabolic engineering method that combines transcriptional activation, transcriptional interference, and gene deletion, and executes them simultaneously, making the process faster and easier.
More Engineering News and Engineering Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.