IBM Relaunches Smarter City Initiative With An Innovative Portal

IBM has relaunched it's Smarter City initiative and the website portal is something you should visit to experience.  It is truly an immersive, interactive experience designed to show how cities all over the world are using advanced technology to help address some of the biggest problems facing our planet.  

 Smarter City Portal
It is a fact…our cities are getting larger and larger.  With that growth comes significant challenges for city leaders.  Increasingly, city operations are being digitized, creating brand new data points.  With the greater digitization of its core systems and the use of advanced analytic capabilities, cities can enhance decision-making and improve urban planning.

The Smarter City portal allows you to explore and experience how Smarter Technology can have an impact on making a city more sustainable, more intelligent, and simply better places to live and work.  At the portal, you have options to learn more about how technology can impact all areas of a Smarter City, including Transportation (all forms of transportation), Public Safety, Communications, Energy & Utilities, Healthcare, Social Services, Education,  Retail, Economic Development and other critical operations that make up a large urban city today. 

I suggest you give it a visit and explore this innovative portal at www.thesmartercity.com

A Primer On Water Management Issues

IBM Water Mgmnt Icon Today is Blog Action day at water.org.  It's a good time to get the word out to everyone on water management issues. Read more about water.org's blog action day at Blog Action Day – Working Together To Solve The Water Crisis.  This post is my contribution to the Blog Action Day.

Most of us reading this post take our access to water for granted.  However, I would imagine that we all realize that water is critical to sustaining life on our planet.  Water makes up 60 to 70% by weight of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.  If the Earth’s water supply vanished, there would be no plants, no animals, and no people. 

While the Earth’s water is not vanishing, many scientists believe that our global water supply is in crisis.  We may or may not be at the crisis stage, but we definitely need to take action to solve our water management issues.

Some Quick Facts About WaterWater Wasted

  • Water covers 75% of the earth's surface.  Nearly 98% of the earth's water is in the oceans.  Fresh water makes up less than 3% of water on earth, over two thirds of this is tied up in polar ice caps and glaciers.  Fresh water lakes and rivers make up only 0.009% of water on Earth and ground water makes up 0.28%.
  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt, 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk, and 39,000 gallons to make a car.
  • Global agriculture wastes an estimated 60% of the 2,500 trillion liters it uses each year. 
  • Municipalities lose as much as 50% of their water supply through leaky infrastructure.  
  • More than one trillion gallons of water are wasted in U.S. homes each year from easy-to-fix leaks.
  • 1 in 5 of the word’s population still lacks access to clean, safe drinking water. 
  • The United Nations predicts that nearly half the world’s population will experience critical water shortages by the year 2080.
  • There are nearly 53,000 different water agencies in the United States alone, each managing a short stretch of river or a handful of reservoirs. 
  • In the last 100 years global water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth.

For those of us living in developed nations, our water infrastructure is many decades old.  In fact, in some places it is centuries old.  As our demand for water is increasing, we need to modernize the existing infrastructure.  One way to do that is to apply information technology.

Today’s water management systems are operating without enough data and insights.   The planet needs new water management systems, based on smart technology that can collect and analyze real-time data.  These new systems will provide water authorities with the insights they need to supply more water to more people with lower energy-use and cost. 

How Can Technology Help?

What is needed are water management systems that can provide real time collection and analysis of all sources of data.  This includes integrating disparate sensor technologies that produce disparate data formats along with other data from an array of partners.  Information technology solutions are needed that can take data that’s coming in fast and turn it into intelligence that augments the ability to improve decision making about water distribution.  These solutions need to connect the folks in the central control room with those working in the field building bridges, dams, dykes to the sensor experts and sophisticated modelers.

  • Technology can monitor, measure and analyze entire water ecosystems, from rivers and reservoirs to the pumps and pipes in our homes.
  • The latest water meters, combined with appropriate Water Management solutions can provide a single, reliable, up-to-the minute and actionable view of water use for a government, a business, or a home.   These ‘smart’ water meters can provide real-time insight into water use, raising awareness, locating inefficiencies and decreasing demand.
  • Advanced sensors can help us collect all sorts of new data on water usage.  For example, sensors on levees can monitor changing flood conditions and respond accordingly.  Sensor based systems can provide the agriculture industry with detailed information on air quality, soil moisture content and temperature to calculate optimal irrigation schedules.
  • Advanced computing, analytics, and simulations can help us all move beyond “real time” to prediction, supporting better-informed policy and management decisions.
  • Technology can also be applied to our oceans to gather data on water temperature, currents, wave strength, salinity and marine life, and applying algorithms that can forecast everything from wave patterns over 24 hours to the right time to harvest mussels.

IBM Water Management Solution Areas

IBM is taking a leadership role among technology vendors in researching, piloting and developing a whole suite of water management solutions.  Taking a look at what IBM is doing can help us see the areas where technology can be applied to solve water management issues

  • Natural Water Resources – Provides sensor data integration, analysis and visualization to enable the measurement, modeling and management of water levels, usage and quality in natural water resources.
  • Water Utilities – Enables water providers to make rapid decisions regarding business processes and operational efficiency to maximize their return on investments as well as foresee and quickly respond to contamination issues and emergencies.
  • Water Infrastructure – Provides sensing systems for managing water infrastructure, such as levee oversight management and flood control.
  • Water Metering – Improves management of water supply and demand by integrating data between the dozens of stakeholders involved. Provides all stakeholders with consistent, real-time information to help them work together to make critical decisions about water supply in a geographic region.
  • Green Sigma for Water™ – is a business consulting service that identifies where water is being used, measures and monitors usage, and creates process improvements to reduce water use. IBM pilots have achieved reductions in water usage of 30%.
  • SmartBay Sensor System – Monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels.  Provide real-time information to stakeholders in the Irish maritime economy, runs on a cloud computing platform, and is able to predict water conditions critical to those stakeholders.

Innovative Water Management Vendors

The Artemis Project held its second annual Artemis Project Top 50 Water Companies Competition during the spring of 2010.   These vendors are all coming up with some very innovative and creative solutions to Water Management issues.  Check out the winners:  A list of the 50 is here.   View a poster show of this year’s winners here.

What Is Needed

More work is needed as we transform the water infrastructure to digital technology:

  • Continue to Build Awareness for Water Issues.  Many in leadership positions are not aware of the critical need for water management information technology solutions.
  • Continue Market Testing & Solutions Platform Development.  Technology vendors need to continue to build assets and test solution platforms.  Stronger linkages are needed across the growing ecosystem.
  • Continue to Build Thought Leadership Deliverables.  Tech vendors need to develop content highlighting case studies, references, demonstrations, and white papers.

For More Information

There is a bunch of more reading material available.  Here some links…

A Primer on the Smart Grid and Intelligent Utility Network Trend

Smart Grid2 In a world where increased focus is on reducing CO2 emissions, governments and energy & utility companies are looking for ways to modernize and transform their utility infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency and reliability. 

For developed economies, the traditional way power has been generated is based on a central generation model with one-way power and information flow from large, often distant generating stations, via transmission and distribution lines to end consumers.   Most of these generation systems contain an aging infrastructure with some equipment dating back 60 years.  This traditional infrastructure lacks sufficient technology and communications at the distribution and end-use level that would enable grid automation & monitoring capabilities.   The model has been a push model, meaning that there is little to no automated information coming back to the central sites from those that use the power.  So if the user suddenly has no power, the only way the utility company knows about it is if they get a call from the users.  Furthermore, the user has very little information available to help them understand how much power they are using, when they are using it, and what they are using it for.

The Smart Grid (also called Intelligent Utility Network) technology is an important emerging trend within the Energy and Utility Industry.  As consumers, we are increasingly aware that the way we consume and save energy can be improved.  Within the energy and utility industry, energy efficiency is also on the minds of the industry leaders.  And our governments are all interested in finding new sources of energy.   By embedding technology into the electrical distribution network, a Smart Grid can transform the way power is distributed and used.  Intelligence throughout the grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The following video from IEEE will provide some additional introduction into the concept of the Smart Grid.

Produced by IEEE and ScienCentral, Inc.

A Smart Grid can present many opportunities for consumers, businesses, and utilities to benefit from the efficient distribution of energy and availability of intelligent equipment and devices.  For governments, it offers significant opportunities to wisely manage a country’s fuel resources by potentially reducing the need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable energy sources into the grid’s operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling users of power to better manage their energy consumption.

The Smart Grid technology will enable energy customers to

  • manage electricity consumption to meet specific household/business goals such as cost, availability, and environmental impact
  • seek energy providers, information, and technologies that help them meet their goals
  • do business with utility companies who communicate a set of energy-related values consistent with their own
  • seek convenient and more personalized ways to interact with their utility to negotiate customized solutions to allow them to meet their needs
  • act on their own wants and needs where regulatory representation does not provide results satisfying these specific needs, primarily through execution of alternative solutions (e.g., self-generation)

So what exactly are the characteristics of a Smart Grid?  The US Department of Energy has characterized a smart grid as having the following attributes:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets
  • Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

The consumer of power from a future Smart Grid will see many differences as a result of adding intelligence into the network.   Some examples are:

  • Smart electricity meters, water meters, and gas meters that collect real-time data on utility usage.
  • Distributed generation, such as solar panels and other micro generation.  These new generators could be located at the home, in the neighborhood, or in the local community.
  • Dedicated energy display units and smart thermostats that provide the user with feedback on energy usage in real-time.
  • Smart appliances with connectivity to the intelligent utility network via the in home meters and display units.
  • Plug-in vehicles as a both source and consumer of energy.  The vehicles, when plugged in would provide information on energy usage.
  • Linked connection to the in-home network and home PCs for further analysis of all the information collected.

The Smart Grid transformation is much more than installation of new technology in a piece-part fashion.  The call for the transformation to a Smart Grid impacts every part of the utility infrastructure including generation, distribution, and usage.  It will be a disruptive change, but a change that will provide huge rewards for the future.  For the utility industry itself, changes needs to happen in four key areas:

  1. Strategy.  We need a  fundamental rethink of business strategy and industry business models across the board.
  2. Collaboration.  Utility providers will need to develop a much closer collaboration with customers, regulators, financers, researchers, technology and service vendors, and other stakeholders than ever before.
  3. People.  The change will be very disruptive to utility companies.  They will need a renewed focus on staff, their roles, competencies, compensation, performance and structure.
  4. Process.  Utility providers will need to re-architect business processes and applications.

There is much work to be done to transform old utility infrastructures to a Smart Grid system.  The transformation will not happen overnight, but could happen over a series of decades.  When complete, countries that transform their utilities infrastructure to an Intelligent Utility Network will have a modern network of sensor-based interactive technologies that will give utilities and consumers unprecedented control over managing energy use, improving energy grid operations, and significantly reducing energy costs. 

There is a ton of information available on Smart Grids.  Here are a few example resources for you to explore….

For other “Primers” here on HorizonWatching, check out http://horizonwatching.typepad.com/horizonwatching/primer/

Scientific American: 20 World Changing Ideas in Science

Scientific American 20 World Changing Ideas Scientific American published an article back in December titled “World Changing Ideas” that caught my eye.   The article provides a laundry list of ideas that Scientific American says have the potential to improve our lives and our planet.  The magazine has been running similar articles on an annual basis for a number of years.

The December article covers ideas in five general categories (Energy,Transportation, Environment, Electronics, and Health) that highlight the power of science and technology to improve the world.

Here’s a summary of some of the 20 ideas from this article

Energy

  • Pay for solar panels on your house like you pay for a house mortgage.
  • Biofuels from genetically engineered plants.
  • Innovations in Nuclear Power production that can stem nuclear proliferation
  • Smart meters in the home
  • Wind Power harvested from a fleet of high-flying giant kites or windmills

Transportation

  • Plug-in hybrid trucks for short-haul cargo trips
  • Subway-like bus lines

Environment

  • Someday the oceans might be regulated by a worldwide marine planning and zoning committee
  • Harvesting energy trapped in garbage via a technology called plasma gasification
  • Cement that naturally absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens
  • Introducing new honeybee colonies to our farms
  • Developing crops that can handle saltwater

Electronics

  • HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project
  • Smartphones that can act as real-time language translators
  • Advances in Personal Robotics

Health

  • Biomarkers can help understand the causes of complex diseases
  • Satellites can help track and predict the spread of diseases
  • Better and cheaper ways to help blood clot quicker
  • Performing blood tests in real time by putting a drop of blood on a computer chip
  • Innovations in dental care.

The 20 ideas above are all interesting and innovative trends in science and technology.  Some I would say are more ‘world changing’ than other ideas.  And I am sure we could all come up with another 20 trends / ideas in science that are not listed above.

There’s much more detail in the article.  Scientific American articles are available to subscribers only, but at the time of the writing of this post, I found the article at Scribd here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23475128/20-World-Changing-Ideas.  Also…you can listen to a podcast where Scientific American magazine Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina and editor Michael Moyer talk about the "World Changing Ideas" feature ( Download this podcast ). 

IBM: 5 Innovations That Will Impact Us Within 5 Years

IBM 5 in 5 The world is experiencing unprecedented urbanization.  Last year marked the first time in history that the majority of the world’s population was residing in cities.  This trend is not stopping and will have huge implications for our large urban environments we call home.  So what can be done to make our cities economically, socially and technologically healthy–and keep them that way?

IBM recently unveiled a list of 5 innovations that will have the potential to change how people live, work and play in cities around the globe over the next five years.  The following text provides a summary and there is a 3 minute video embedded below…

IBM’s Next 5 in 5…

1) Cities will have healthier immune systems:  Because of population densities, cities will remain hotbeds of communicable diseases.  By standardizing methods for sharing health information and analyzing disease outbreaks, public health officials will know precisely when, where and how diseases are spreading.

2) City buildings will sense and respond like living organisms:   The technology that manages building facilities "will operate like a living organism that can sense and respond quickly." Thousands of sensors inside buildings will monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, occupancy and light.  These smart buildings will enable repairs to be made before something breaks, will help emergency units respond quickly, and will let people and companies monitor their energy consumption and carbon emission in real-time.

3) Cars and city buses will run on empty:   IBM predicts that improved battery technology will power the next generation of eco-friendly vehicles. It says the new batteries won’t need to be recharged for days or months at a time (depending on how often the vehicles are driven) and will allow trips of 300 to 500 miles on a single charge.  Also smart grids in cities will allow vehicles to be charged in public places using renewable energy, such as wind power, for charging so they no longer rely on coal-powered plants.

4) Smarter systems will quench cities' thirst for water and save energy:  To deal with the estimate that demand for water is expected to increase sixfold in the next 50 years cities will install smarter water systems to reduce water waste by up to 50 percent.  Smart sewer systems will also be installed that not only prevent run-off pollution in rivers and lakes, but purify water to make it drinkable.  Plus, interactive meters and sensors will provide people with real time, accurate information about their water consumption. 

5) Cities will respond to a crisis:  Even before receiving an emergency phone call. In support of the news:  IBM is helping law enforcement agencies analyze information so they can anticipate crime and be ready to respond when it happens.  Also the New York Fire Department has selected IBM to build a state-of-the-art system for collecting and sharing data in real-time and the company is also designing smart levee systems to prevent cities from devastating floods. 

A common denominator in all five of these innovations is a sophisticated data analytics capability that can take volumes of data, perform modeling and simulation on that data, and turn it into actionable insights for decision makers.  Five years could be an optimistic time frame for a few of these, but in this case, I think a little optimism helps to push the envelope on research and development of the innovations.

Watch the 3 minute video….

Read up more on IBM’s Next 5 in 5

IDC: Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) Top Ten 2010 Predictions

In 2010, it will be the organization that is able to transform itself to effectively partner with complimentary industries, enable its sales force to sell across multiple business units, and finally create flexible pricing and delivery models that will come out on top.”  – Simon Piff, director, Enterprise Infrastructure, IDC Asia/Pacific.

IDC IDC has published their list of 2010 predictions for the Asia Pacific region excluding Japan.  In publishing the list, IDC says that two themes will dominate events in the IT and telecommunications markets in 2010:  recovery and transformation.   In 2010 IDC says we should expect modest growth to return to IT and telecommunications spending.  While IDC does not anticipate spending levels to return to levels that we saw before the economic crisis , opportunities do exist.

IDC points out that economic crisis we have seen over the last year has resulted in a shift by businesses to a more customer-centric decision-making process when determining new corporate initiatives.  With that has been an emphasis on customer-driven analytics, Web 2.0 and other social media components. 

With that as background, here are IDC’s 2010 top 10 predictions for the AP marketplace (excluding Japan).

  1. The Maturing Cloud Will Need Five 9 Service-Level Agreements and Enterprise-Grade Cloud Services
  2. Business Analytics Will Emerge as a Key Technology Area
  3. Enterprise Use of Social Media Will Increase
  4. Converged Fabric and Evolving Datacenter Will be Centerpieces of Transformation
  5. Evolutions of SaaS to Kaas: It Will be all About Business Process Transformation
  6. Smartphones in Emerging Markets Will Rise
  7. Converged Hardware Will Herald the Dawn of the Enterprise Alliance
  8. Chargeback 3.0 Will Receive Renewed Interest from the CFO
  9. Intelligent X Will Emerge: Building a Smarter and More Measurable World
  10. Machine To Machine Interaction Will Get More Traction

The full report Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) 2010 Top 10 Predictions   http://www.idc.com/research/viewtoc.jsp?containerId=AP381114S

From old to new, and a smarter planet

via www.youtube.com

Found this interesting video on the IBM developerworks site. The title, "From old to new, and a smarter planet" describes not only the scene we see, but what we don't see.

developerWorks' Scott Laningham is our host for the less than 2 minute video which plays out on the roads of West Texas. He just couldn't pass up the symbolism of the setting — old oil wells rimmed by miles of wind turbines.

This past weekend, I was driving from St. Louis to Chicago and also saw miles and miles of wind turbines off in the distance. To some these are an eyesore, but to me they represent our future.

At the end of the video, Scott makes a plug for the Smarter Planet demo series on developerWorks. www.ibm.com/developerworks/

Making Healthcare Smarter

Unless you are on Mars, you are aware that there’s a bunch of discussion going on now about making our Healthcare systems better.   Much of that discussion, I feel, is missing the critical topic of the IT infrastructure supporting our healthcare systems.  There needs to be more discussion on how to modernize the technology within the Healthcare systems. 

HealthCare systems should be designed to connect people to information, to experts and to each other so that collectively, we can all act proactively to better manage and deliver preventative and therapeutic care.  Our healthcare system s need better connections, better data, and faster and more detailed analysis.  It needs an integrated view of the underlying data/information and centering it on the patient, so each person "owns" his or her information, controls who access it, and has can provide that access to a networked team of collaborative care. 

We need to move away from paper records to electronic records.  This will reduce medical errors and improve efficiencies.  And more importantly, it will allow us to apply  advanced data analytics to the the vast amounts of data, to improve outcomes.

Some places for you to check out some good discussion going on these days about how technology can improve our healthcare system.

Video

The video to the right (lasts 1:41) makes the case for a smarter HealthCare System

Blogs

The following blogs are great resources on what is happening in Healthcare and IT

Upcoming Webinar

Join IBM and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) on September 16th, at 12:00ET for a complimentary web seminar:  "Making Smarter Healthcare a Reality: Implications for Today's CIO."Dan Pelino, General Manager of IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, along with a distinguished guest panel will share their points of view on the evolution of smarter healthcare and how the motivational forces of patient safety and quality are driving new levels of transformation.  On the guest panel is…

  • G. Daniel Martich, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer and Associate Chief Medical Officer, UPMC, will discuss how UPMC embodies smarter healthcare and their transformative journey. Dr. Martich will also discuss the Center for Connected Medicine, a showcase facility for patient-centered, collaborative care.
  • Sean Hogan, Vice President, Global Healthcare Delivery Systems, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences and Peggy Rodebush, RN, MSN, Healthcare Partner, IBM Global Business Services will share the results from the soon-to-be released IBM Global CIO Study providing provocative insights on the evolution of the Healthcare CIO’s role in the organization’s business strategy and in realizing innovative, smarter healthcare.  

Websites

Smarter Cities Prediction Market

My colleagues at IBM have asked me to invite you to participate in a unique prediction market experiment called the “Smarter Cities Predictive Idea Markets”.  

Prediction Markets harness the collective intelligence of a community to gain predictive insight, and often even outperform the experts – as was the case in the 2008 US Presidential election.  They utilize stock market principles where participants get play money to “trade” ideas.

IBM’s Smarter Cities Predictive Idea Markets will allow you, along with other thought leaders, to further explore questions, ideas and opportunities that emerged and help determine which ideas may have the greatest chance for success. 

Participation is easy. Just visit the Smarter Cities Predictive Idea Markets http://smartercities.ibm.spigit.com Web site and register.  Once you’re registered, you can choose a market and begin making trades. The markets are open till September 13th, 2009 11:59 EDT.   Please feel free to share this invitation with other individuals that might be interested in participating – all submissions will remain confidential and only aggregated trading results will be shared across the community.

Complete details are on the Smarter Cities Predictive Idea Markets Web site.  Participation requires less than 5 minutes and every participant will receive a full set of results and insights at the beginning of October. 

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to take part in this experiment, share your insights, and see the collective opinions of your peers on the future of Smarter Cities. 

New IBM Commercials Highlight Smarter Planet Issues

imageIBM has just launched five new TV commercials in conjunction with the US Open tennis tournament. 

The TV commercials support IBM’s strategic Smarter Planet campaign, so there is a little selling going on in the videos.  However, these are important emerging trends, so here you go.

  • Cloud – Message:  Workstations used to be tied to a mainframe. Now they're conversing with a cloud.
  • Secure Collaboration -  Message:  The choice between being open and being secure isn't a choice anymore. Collaboration is the key to business on a smarter planet, but you need to make sure your business is protected.
  • Oil -  Message:   Energy is one of the world's most vital resources.  How we extract, use and preserve this resource is vital to our future.
  • Water -  Message:  Water is something we all take for granted, but there is a limited amount in the world. Smarter water management is necessary to ensure our farms, factories and businesses continue to have access to safe, high quality water.
  • Public Safety – Message:  Cities all over the world are getting smarter.  By collecting, analyzing and sharing data, your city can be safer, too.

I really like the creative look and feel of these commercials.  I understand there was a bunch of research that went into them.   While I believe the commercials will appeal to the public at large, they are obviously designed to target the IT audience, line of business leaders and CXOs. 

For more on IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, check out http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/smartplanet/index.shtml

Two Days Left To Enter The Intelligent Use Of Water Competition

Passionate about water conservation and water management issues?AG035

This competition is seeking short films (narrative, documentary, animated, experimental and/or student-made films between 1 and 10 minutes in length) that creatively explore methods and ideas to responsibly manage and use e arth’s most precious resource.

Films submitted by August 15, 2009 will be reviewed by a judging panel of film and water management experts.  Finalists will win a trip to Los Angeles, where they will be guests at a formal screening and awards show hosted at The Getty Center on September 23, 2009.

Check out the website for more information!  www.IUOWFILM.com

Smart Bridges for a Smarter Planet

Bridges are critical elements of our transportation infrastructure.  Bridge failure, as we saw with the collapse of the I-35 bridge outside of Minneapolis, can be catastrophic.  Today, the developed nations of the world are having to deal with many bridges that are aging.  How can we monitor those bridges to better predict when they might fail?  In the United States there are a reported 600,000 bridges.

Looking for structural problems in bridges mostly still requires a visual inspection, The traditional practice of bridge inspection and bridge management has many limitations.  The most significant limitation is that the data collected is based solely upon visual inspection, augmented with limited mechanical methods such as hammer sounding or prying.   Visual inspection is highly variable, subjective and inherently unable to detect invisible deterioration, damage or distress.

In the future, we will have continuous electronic monitoring of bridges using a network of sensors at critical points.  Sensors can deliver volumes of data about how a bridge handles heavy traffic, harsh winters, high winds or other conditions.  Sensors can also alert us to serious problems long before they might be apparent to a human inspector during a visual inspection.

Picture Graphic from Businessweek.  See original image here

The bridge that crashed in Minneapolis in 2007 was replaced by a new smarter bridge, design and built in about a year.   It is a very modern bridge and is probably the smartest bridge in the USA and perhaps the world.   It is filled with sensors that are meant to monitor all the details necessary to prevent any collapse.   The new bridge holds more than 300 sensors that measure the effects of corrosion and temperature changes.   The sensor system will track weather, stresses and it will monitor traffic.  There’s also an automatic de-icing system which should really come in handy.  In addition to helping transportation officials monitor the health of the bridge, researchers at the University of Minnesota are analyzing the data to help design bridges better able to handle all the stresses.

For more information on Smart Bridges, see the following articles