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Can the Internet of Things keep Britain’s Roads moving in the winter?

On a cold winter night with frost forecast, Local councils and highway authorities face the task of ensuring our highways are kept safe. This largely entails spreading rock salt on the roads to prevent ice patches forming and causing accidents. 

Over the unpredictable British winter, the gritting operation can put a strain on a council’s ever decreasing budgets and as a result a judgement call often has to be made between safety and cost.

The internet of things is a term that is used in both the public and private sector, but imagine if the internet of things could assist in making this judgement call. Not only helping identify where and when to grit but also ensuring the rock salt is applied as efficiently as possible and that the public are kept aware of the icy conditions and progress of the gritting. It may also be beneficial to show the public the corresponding cost of delivering this service so they can better understand the financial pressures faced by the Council.   

Intelligent road surface sensors can be deployed in towns and cities across varies locations. They will constantly measure any change in the surface temperature of the road and its surroundings and transmit the data back for processing.

The data gathered can be analysed and stored to which live dashboards can then be specifically created. Using both live and historical data along with weather forecasts the application can analyse and predict if the highways are icy or are likely to freeze enabling the authorities to better plan and mobilise a more targeted response.

Most councils still solely rely on the Met Office to track weather, but this information does not provide the level of granularity required, creating situations where grit is unnecessarily placed on roads.

Applying IoT technologies to compliment the traditional approach will ensure that the roads and highways can be dealt with in order of priority and that roads are not gritted unnecessarily.  

Location Data

All Trucks can be fitted with a GPS device to measure speed and location at any given time. This information can deliver further benefit and savings for the Council. The optimum spreading of the rock salt is achieved when the gritter drives at a predefined speed. This optimum speed can be calculated and the drivers informed. To assist the drivers to maintain this optimum spread the speed of each truck can be measured and analysed to determine if the driver needs to speed up or slow down to ensure the optimum coverage of the roads. The driver can be informed in the cab to adjust or maintain their speed via a simple red/green lamp. The vehicle data is also recorded, providing the ability to review driver/route performance.

Every Truck is given a route that they patrol, the internet of things can use all the data gathered from the road surface temperature sensors and the onboard GPS to suggest an efficient route that can change depending on the conditions of the roads and priority given by the relevant authorities.

In addition, the public can be kept fully aware of the gritted roads in the area as well as highlight roads that need urgent gritting via a graphical dashboard on the Council website. This dashboard can also display the costs associated with the gritting operation so that the public can understand why gritting needs to be targeted. This is becoming ever more important as local authority’s budgets get squeezed tighter.  

The future of road conditions

As the world prepares for even more automation, this technology and the corresponding data gathered will provide valuable insight into the conditions of public roads and ultimately warn drivers when the road conditions are unsafe at certain speeds.

If you would like to know more about our Internet of Things Solutions please call 01745 535 300 to discuss with one of our IoT specialists.

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