As infrastructure ages, the challenges in maintaining and upgrading them become more complex. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and sensor technology, infrastructure owners can improve the reliability, safety, and sustainability of aging infrastructure. In this article, we’ll explore the role of AI and embedded sensor technology in maintaining aging infrastructure.
What is Aging Infrastructure?
Aging infrastructure refers to infrastructure systems that are reaching the end of their design life or require significant repair or replacement. This includes bridges, roads, dams, water and wastewater systems, and more. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives the United States a grade of “D+” for its infrastructure, highlighting the need for investment in maintenance and repair.
Challenges in Maintaining Aging Infrastructure
Maintaining aging infrastructure presents several challenges, including:
- Lack of funding: Many infrastructure systems are underfunded, making it difficult to maintain and repair them.
- Technological obsolescence: Older infrastructure systems may use outdated technology that is difficult to maintain or upgrade.
- Safety risks: Aging infrastructure can pose safety risks to users and the public.
- Environmental impacts: Aging infrastructure may not be designed to meet modern environmental standards.
How Can AI and Embedded Sensor Technology Help?
AI can assist in maintaining aging infrastructure in several ways, including:
- Predictive Maintenance: AI can predict when a failure is likely to occur, allowing for maintenance to be scheduled before a catastrophic failure occurs. For example, AI along with sensors on a bridge can detect changes in structural conditions and alert maintenance teams to potential failures, allowing for proactive maintenance and repair.
- Condition Monitoring: AI can monitor the condition of infrastructure in real-time, providing early warning of potential failures. For example, AI along with sensors can monitor water pipelines for leaks or changes in pressure, allowing maintenance teams to quickly identify and repair issues.
- Asset Management: AI can help optimize the life cycle of infrastructure assets by analyzing data and recommending maintenance and replacement schedules.
- Safety and Risk Management: AI can help identify safety risks and mitigate them before they become serious. For example, AI can analyze data on traffic patterns and accident rates to identify high-risk areas on roads and highways.
Several organizations have already begun to use AI and embedded sensor technology in maintaining aging infrastructure. Here are some examples:
- Thames Water: Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and wastewater services provider, is utilizing AI technology to predict equipment failure and optimize maintenance schedules. This has resulted in a significant reduction in water loss and improved efficiency in maintenance operations.
- Florida Department of Transportation: The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is employing embedded sensor technology to monitor infrastructure, specifically bridges. The FDOT has been installing sensors such as strain gauges, temperature, corrosion, and accelerometers in bridges from the foundation to the deck of the bridge. The collected sensor data can detect changes in the bridge’s condition, such as cracks or corrosion, and predict potential structural failures. This proactive approach allows for timely maintenance and repair, improving the safety and reliability of the bridge infrastructure.
- Singapore Land Transport Authority: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) Singapore is using AI to monitor the condition of rail assets in real-time, enabling proactive maintenance and repair. This has resulted in improved safety and reduced downtime on the rail network.
As infrastructure continues to age, the need for innovative solutions to maintain and upgrade them becomes increasingly important. AI can assist in the maintenance and repair of aging infrastructure, improving reliability, safety, and sustainability. By leveraging AI along with embedded sensor technology to predict failures, monitor condition, optimize asset management, and manage risk, infrastructure owners can ensure that aging infrastructure continues to serve the needs of communities for years to come.
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Written By: Aneesh Goly