Smart Roads and bridge monitoring


The Smart Road project favors road mobility by performing a significant programmatic action aimed at digitizing the existing infrastructure. The aim of this ambitious project is to ensure technological adaptation towards self-awareness of the road network, which represents a critical infrastructure in a Country. With particular focus on bridges, Italtel formulated its vision for an integrated system for monitoring critical mobility infrastructures.

Smart Road is a project that enhances the ability of roads to self-diagnose and self-recognize in regard to both static and highly dynamic characteristics, such as loads, operating conditions or climatic conditions.

The road network is one of the most critical infrastructures in a country. As it is essential for every citizen, any destruction, interruption or lack of availability – even when partial or temporary – would have the effect of significantly weakening the efficiency and normal functioning of the country itself as well as affecting its security and its economic-financial and social system, including the central and local public administration apparatus. The prevention of catastrophic events is based on monitoring the territory through dedicated projects that use the benefits of technology in “everyday” situations, such as the stability control of buildings or infrastructure such as bridges, viaducts and tunnels. Only when you are able to instantly recognize when and how a potentially disastrous event can occur, are you capable of making decisions that can have a real effect on prevention. Therefore, the viewing, in real time or with limited and programmed delays, of the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) allows you to take fast and targeted intervention measures.

A crucial and particularly delicate aspect of road infrastructure is represented by bridges and viaducts. For this reason, many projects and research have been focusing for long time on the monitoring of these infrastructural elements.

For the timely detection of static and dynamic deformation of a bridge, there are three main actions that can be taken:

  1. Dynamic and static monitoring to integrate checks on infrastructure behavior in the short and long term.
  2. Predictive maintenance to identify the residual time before a fault. This is a type of preventive maintenance that’s carried out following the identification of one or more parameters measured and processed through appropriate mathematical models.
  3. Early warning to issue alarms or potential alarms in a very short time period in the face of imminent danger in order to allow for timely and immediate action and to prevent any damage.

A few years ago Italtel had already started its research activity in the Bridge Monitoring field, carrying out a project in collaboration with ANAS (National Agency for Roads) and ANCE Sicilia (National Association of Building Constructors) to monitor the stability of Ponte Cinque Archi (Caltanissetta, Sicily), a bridge located on the SS121 Catanese and crossing the Salso river with a structure consisting of five masonry arches, from which it takes its name.

Italtel created at its Palermo Carini site, a Structural Monitoring Service Center which can provide advanced monitoring features. The technical solution studied by Italtel consisted of local sensors (inclinometers and accelerometers installed on the pillars of the bridge), local servers to collect and transfer the data and a centralized Cloud platform to implement the logic (including alarm management) and the storage of data. Information on the bridge stability allowed for very rapid interventions upon facing critical events and prevention activities such as the remote management of traffic lights to block access to the bridge.

Following the first project, Ponte Cinque Archi, several years of field research followed and Italtel is now finalizing its activity, presenting new products and solutions to the market.