Tech article: Wireless sensors for the monitoring of Geotechnical and Civil infrastructure

In recent years Wireless Sensor Networks are asserting their power in many industries. Civil construction is one of the most prevalent industries for the application of these technologies due to the benefits they can generate. Harsh environmental conditions, hostile terrain, remote and isolated areas are common scenarios which need to be tackled to properly ensure secure and long lasting service of large singular infrastructures such as bridges, tunnels or retaining dams.

Wireless Sensor Network solutions for the monitoring of geotechnical and civil infrastructure reduce maintenance costs, lower energy consumption, minimise downtime, improve infrastructure lifespan, enhance safety and centralise control operations which are usually spread out, due to its capacity to monitor and better control infrastructures.
Aging infrastructures and higher labour costs significantly increase maintenance expenditure. The later highlights the need for better and more efficient asset management. Wireless sensor technologies have advantages over traditional wired technologies due to the ability to access and report back on remote data locations, in areas where wired technology is expensive or is not even an option.

The geotechnical and civil infrastructure industry can benefit from the use of Wireless Sensors by eliminating the need for cables. Furthermore, they offer significantly reduced installation and operating costs as they can be installed in remote areas due to its wireless nature, providing more cost efficient permanent monitoring solutions.
In addition, wireless technology enables a new range of applications; particularly in the area of predictive maintenance. These networks may be composed of many different types of sensors such as load cells, crackmeters, inclinometers, piezometers and many others which are able to monitor a wide variety of geotechnical, structural conditions such as: Load, deformation, flooding, phreatic levels, slop stability.

Normally all the devices stream real-time data to a control centre where data analysis and active alarms are set to ensure real-time infrastructure integrity. As a result, real-time infrastructure supervision and monitoring costs are significantly reduced, while complying with regulations, reducing or eliminating down-times for maintenance or unplanned structural failures and savings by giving the operator a constant view of the state of all aspects of the infrastructure.

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