Monitoring Infrastructure, Wirelessly
SenSpot wireless bridge monitoring system, the University of Maryland.
As federal and state governments struggle to ratchet down current budgets, we need no reminder about the decrepit state of U.S. infrastructure. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Society of Civil Engineers, over 25 percent of bridges in the U.S. are in need of immediate attention. Since I live and work in the Twin Cities, I know too well what can happen to a deficient bridge—as occurred with the I-35W bridge in 2007.
Fortunately, Mehdi Kalantari with the University of Maryland believes that he has a cost-effective early warning solution for aging bridges. Kalantari’s invention is simple: a wireless monitoring device that continually reports information about the structural health of a bridge, an approach he claims requires one-hundredth the cost of a comprehensive wired network.
"If this kind of technology had been available in Minnesota four years ago, there's a good chance the fatal bridge collapse could have been avoided," Kalantari said. "This new approach makes preventive maintenance affordable—even at a time when budgets are tight. Officials will be able to catch problems early and will have weeks or months to fix a problem."