The internetworking of physical devices, from bridges and buildings to homes and vehicles, is leading us to develop “smart technology.” The idea of living in a smart world is alluring but one must first understand how smart technology works, and how it can be integrated into civil infrastructure.
Smart Technology at Work
Smart technology incorporates the Internet of Things (IoT). As the “infrastructure of the information society,” IoT requires that objects be sensed and remotely controlled by existing network infrastructure. This allows integration of computer systems with the physical world in order to improve efficiency.
For example, a smart home is one relies on automation for control of air conditioning, the environment, appliances, and security.
By taking advantage of existing Wi-Fi networks used for home internet, the home’s various systems can be remotely monitored and completely automated by the IoT.
To take it one step further, a group of local networks controlling infrastructure devices is also part of the larger IoT. When IoT technology is used in conjunction with sensors, it is referred to as a cyber-physical system, which would also describe a smart city or smart grid.
“the bridge is fitted with sensors which will record and send data on inclinations, movements, weather and pressures from vehicle traffic.”
A Smart Bridge
Structures such as bridges can also benefit from smart technology. A German newspaper recently reported that the central European country had built its first “intelligent” bridge.
Built along the Autobahn 9 in Nuremberg, the bridge is fitted with sensors which will record and send data on inclinations, movements, weather and pressures from vehicle traffic. Based on the constant stream of data, engineers will be able to respond to structural inefficiencies before damages occur.
According to Nordbayern, the bridge will be used in a five-year test to see if its design can be utilized in the rest of the country.
Avoiding Infrastructure Failure
Smart technology has broad applications. In the case of Nuremberg’s intelligent bridge, engineers will be able to detect any developing weaknesses in real time.
The collapse of Bridge 9340 in the U.S. state of Mississippi led to the death of 13 people and the injury of 145 others. It is likely that signs of a structural weakness existed before the bridge collapsed. Smart technologies could help avert a similar tragedy.