New Sensor Technology Could Improve How Cities Handle Bad Weather Conditions


    Along with the cold weather, the effects of winter storms take a hard toll on cities prone to harsh conditions in the winter months. Researchers from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) at the University of Birmingham in England have been at work developing sensors that could save millions of dollars on road repairs and maintenance for snowy and icy conditions.

    These new sensors are connected via the internet and have the potential to save cities from procedures that serve no real benefit, such as gritting of roads and establishing parking lots. They have already proven to be successful in Birmingham, London, and other areas in England.

    The devices will be fitted to lampposts and will continuously collect and transmit data on road-surface temperatures to local officials, including highway agencies and other organizations that need to be alerted. This will help to target the exact areas where gritting is necessary.

    “Generally, a local authority may have just two or three of these weather stations, which means the decisions they make are based more on forecasts than actual information”, says Dr. Lee Chapman, who led the project. “But because our new sensors are so inexpensive, local authorities could afford to deploy scores or even hundreds of them and make very localized decisions about the need to grit on a route by route basis. That’s extremely useful in view of the fact that there can be a 10°c to 15°c difference in road temperatures across a county, say, on a given winter’s night.”

    Considering that just behind thunderstorms, in 2014, winter weather contributed to the cost of weather-related damages, the United States could benefit from technology like this. Dover, DE, for example, can see as much as 15 inches of snow in 5.3 days. Having access to these sensors could help the city to combat tough winter weather conditions and make the roads safe for drivers commuting to and from work and home.