WinterSense aims to tackle weather-related travel delays
WinterSense aims to tackle weather-related travel delays?

WinterSense aims to tackle weather-related travel delays

A road surface temperature sensor system, WinterSense, from the University of Birmingham looks set to address seasonal travel woes.

Winter is coming and at Internet of Business, we love a story about British inventiveness, especially when it combines IoT sensors and communications to solve a familiar problem. And what could be more familiar at this time of year than the frustration of weather-induced travel delays?

That’s why we are pleased to hear that a road surface temperature sensor, which provides real-time data on road conditions, is set for adoption on the UK’s road and motorway network.

The technology, WinterSense, was developed at the University of Birmingham and recently won a national award at the Highways UK 2017 Intelligent Infrastructure Challenge.

Lee Chapman, Professor of Climate Resilience at the University won the award for his low-cost, non-invasive and self-contained road surface temperature sensor, which uses infrared thermometry to identify where roads need to be gritted and where they don’t.

Read more: Transport Scotland turns to IoT to keep roads clear this winter

True grit

The WinterSense sensors are IoT-enabled and use a new generation of low-power communications to provide a real-time measurement of road-surface temperatures to send gritting lorries to where they’re needed most.

“The key issue in this prioritisation is having a good spatial resolution on observation of road surface conditions,” said Professor Chapman. “Our sensors are an order of magnitude cheaper than existing solutions and light enough to be mounted to any lamp post or road sign, which means that a dense network of sensors can be rapidly deployed along a road network to provide a highly granular picture of road surface conditions.”

WinterSense is available through Altasense, which develops sensors that are Wi-Fi enabled (to leverage existing communication networks), low-cost (enabling dense networks to be deployed) and self-contained and battery powered for easy deployment.

Read more: Britain’s motorways lag when it comes to 4G connectivity, says report

Leaves on track

This isn’t the first travel-related, IoT-enabled technology from Professor Chapman and his team, however. They are also the brains behind AutumnSense, which aims to put an end to the frustrations of railway travel interrupted by the dreaded issue of leaves on the track.

Like WinterSense, AutumnSense also uses low-cost sensors, in this case to continuously measure the level of moisture on railway lines at potentially thousands of sites across the UK rail network. By linking this data with a leaf-fall forecast, operators can identify where and when the risk is greatest. That, in turn, would allow them to deploy automated treatment trains which clear the lines before the morning rush hour begins.

According to Professor Chapman: “Even though leaf loss and damp conditions can largely be predicted – and despite automated treatment trains working round the clock from October to December – a windy, rainy night still causes havoc for commuters.”

Read more: FindMy IoT saves Nordic reindeer from train collisions