Smartphones can help sense bridge failure: Report

Published on Nov 07, 2022 11:59 AM IST

Researchers undertook tests that involved traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and a reinforced concrete bridge in Italy. They discovered that two smartphones could deliver information with a level of accuracy comparable to 240 stationary sensors.

Representative Image(Pexels)
Representative Image(Pexels)
By | Edited by Aryan Prakash

A recent research has showed smartphones have the potential to monitor bridge safety much more efficiently and affordably, giving engineers the information they need to make repairs before the structures become seriously unsafe, reports MIT technology review.

In the research published in Communications Engineering, researchers undertook tests that involved traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and a reinforced concrete bridge in Italy. They discovered that two smartphones could deliver information with a level of accuracy comparable to 240 stationary sensors.

How does it work?

Two methods that are typically used to monitor the condition of repair of bridges are:

1) Engineers visually analyse them for flaws and cracks

2) Sensors record information about their vibrations and motions.

However, the new technique does away with both by using smartphones’ accelerometers to capture data as vehicles are moving over the bridges, the report adds. The phones detect the bridges’ natural vibrations, which enables researchers to track structural changes over time.

What is the significance of this research?

We have recently seen how vital is to regularly inspect bridge of any potential flaw causing detrimental effect. Over 130 people were killed after a 143-year-old cable suspension bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi district fell down.

Smartphones incorporate several sensors that are carried by almost 50% of the population globally sensing critical data. By just assisting maintenance staff in performing repairs more quickly, the researchers predict that monitoring this kind of smartphone data over the course of a bridge’s life might increase the durability of the structure by 30%.

The report states that maintaining bridges is expensive while smartphones are cheaper and readily available alternative. However, the report also asks for more research before employing this technique in real environment.

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