Technology to monitor the state of bridges now on your smartphone

The world is starting to embrace new technology that uses smartphone-based sensors to monitor crumbling roads and aging bridges to potentially save millions of lives.

Scientists say they can use various sensors on smartphones such as a gyroscope, an accelerometer to measure speed, and camera, or tiny external sensors such as an infrared sensor, to determine the specific makeup and deterioration of a road’s surface in real-time.

Scientists won’t collect all the data, however. Once someone plugs the sensor into a smartphone, anyone can easily transmit the data wirelessly to a database while on a road. The researchers hope the large amount of crowdsourced data will allow for better informed decisions about the health of roads and bridges.

 The new method uses smartphone-based technologies to monitor infrastructure.
The new method uses smartphone-based technologies to monitor infrastructure.Image: U. Missouri

“Many of the existing methods to monitor our civil infrastructure systems have technical issues and are not user-centered,” says Amir Alavi, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Missouri College of Engineering.

“Assessing roads, bridges, and airfields with affordable sensors, such as those found in smartphones, really works,” says Bill Buttlar, chair of flexible pavement technology. “With a smartphone, we can stitch together many inexpensive measurements to accurately assess things like the roughness or deterioration of a road surface.

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