Smartphone data from drivers could help spot when bridges need urgent repairs

New research suggests smartphones could be used to monitor the safety of bridges much more quickly and cheaply than currently possible, providing engineers with data they can use to fix the structures before they become dangerously unstable.

The website reports that in tests that involved driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and a reinforced concrete bridge in Italy, researchers found that just two smartphones could provide data of similar accuracy to 240 stationary sensors. The phones pick up on naturally occurring vibrations from the bridges, allowing researchers to monitor their structural changes over time.

Their research is described in a study published in Communications Engineering.

Usually, bridges’ state of repair is monitored in one of two ways: either engineers visually inspect them for cracks and faults, or sensors collect data about their vibrations and movements. But a new method developed by researchers at West Point Military Academy and other universities avoids the need for either by collecting accelerometer data from smartphones in cars as they drive over the bridges. 

The report adds that researchers estimate that monitoring this sort of smartphone data throughout a bridge’s life could extend the longevity of the structure by 30%, simply by helping maintenance crews to make more timely repairs. 

(Picture – Yay Images)


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