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Smart monitoring and inspection of bridges infrastructure 

There are approximately 80,900 bridges in the UK continuously subjected to the destructive effects of material aging, deterioration, widespread corrosion in concrete/metal structures, increasing traffic volume and overloading.  These factors, combined with defects in design and construction, and accidental damage, prompt the deterioration of bridges and result in the loss of their load bearing capacity.  The condition of heavily used urban bridges is even worse, with one in three being classified as aging or unable to accommodate modern vehicle weights and traffic volume.

According to an RAC foundation study, more than 2,300 road bridge structures in Britain are inadequate.  Furthermore, in the UK, more than 67% of bridges are in excess of 30 years old and 8% are over 40 years old.  Bridges can suffer structural deterioration due to aging, misuse or lack of proper maintenance.  Therefore, a significant number of these structures needs strengthening, rehabilitation or replacement.  One factor, amongst many, that has led to a deterioration in the condition of bridge structures is unsatisfactory inspection and monitoring of existing structures.

The objective of the SmartBridge project was to revolutionise the monitoring and maintenance of bridge infrastructure by developing an innovative knowledge-based digital platform that will enable the visualisation of bridges’ condition and degradation. Brunel Innovation Centre (BIC) developed the data ingestion algorithm and the advanced signal processing technique for damage sensitive feature extraction.  The digital model for the analytics functionality for the bridge health monitoring system was distributed by BIC and consortium partner Innvotek.

The SmartBridge platform achieved its ambition of enabling bridge operators to undertake lifecycle and behaviour analysis of a bridge’s degradation, reflecting the growth in recent years of using structural health monitoring (SHM) systems to control lifetime extension bridges with known problems.  By continuously forecasting and updating information on health, condition, reliability and remaining life of infrastructures/ bridges, it allows for new and enhanced levels of safety and reliability without overdesigning infrastructure.  The project has also enhanced the competitiveness and productivity of the partners involved and was forecast to generate £81m in revenue, £36m in gross profits and 367 skilled jobs during the five years post-commercialisation.

Partners: James Fisher Testing Services Ltd, Innvotek and BIC (Brunel University London and TWI)

SmartBridge secured funding from Innovate UK.

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