Big bridge capability

Amey Consulting combines unique engineering expertise and asset management with specialist data and analytics capability to make intelligent infrastructure “real” for large complex infrastructure assets.

Amey’s Engineers and Data Analysts have a track record of developing specialist structural health monitoring (SHM) systems, providing a unified approach to the management of important data and information, to better inform the inspection, maintenance, assessment and heath of assets.

Amey Consulting’s management of major bridges is informed by advanced cloud-based data analytics. Automated monitoring, processing and reporting allows engineers to use the full power of big data analytics. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning allow the near future behaviour of structures to be accurately predicted. These systems ensure better informed decisions are made, and lead to safer more reliable and resilient structures, reducing cost and risk and improving performance and life span of the asset.

This methodology transformed the Forth Road Bridge into a world leading, digitally enabled, smart structure by providing early warning of any potential failure, which ensures the safety of users and improved network reliability.

Project Spotlight: The Forth Road Bridge

The Forth Road Bridge (FRB) is an iconic piece of UK national infrastructure. Together with the adjacent Queensferry crossing, they carry around 25 Million vehicles annually and contribute £1 million a day to the Scottish economy.

The unique and complex nature of this present asset management challenges both from an engineering perspective and in terms of inspection data capture, management, and reporting. Between the two bridges, there are around 30,000 elements that need to be kept in working order. Traditional asset management solutions cannot accurately monitor conditions on the FRB, so offer little value by way of engineering insights or data management and reporting.

Two integrated systems developed by Amey Consulting that address these challenges are; Mercury, a data analytics platform and Pearl, an information and condition database.

Challenge

In December 2015, Amey engineers were forced to close the Forth Road Bridge to all traffic following the discovery of a critical failure in one of the eight truss-end links that support the deck at the main towers. The closure of the bridge resulted in huge disruption to Scotland’s road network, costing the Scottish government £20 million in repairs.

This event highlighted the need for a unified approach to data management and monitoring of the bridge elements. Mercury was deployed to manage the safety of the bridge. Amey together with Transport Scotland, proposed and developed the following:

  • Building a data pipeline to extract, transform, and load data from existing structural health monitoring systems and siloed sensors. This enabled Transport Scotland to have access to the entirety of the data on a centralised platform.
  • Providing custom engineering calculations with intelligent alarms and alerts. This automatically alerted engineers when the monitored bridge elements exceeded critical thresholds.
  • Developing a platform for data analytics and visualizations across all the FRB assets. The engineers use the platform to access critical information and make key decisions.
  • Providing automatic reporting capability in line with Transport Scotland reporting requirements for Quality Control.

Mercury - enabling robust, data-driven decisions

Mercury is Amey Consulting’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform for remote condition monitoring and enhanced maintenance of a wide range of smart infrastructure assets. Mercury has been applied at FRB to support the bridge inspection and maintenance engineers. The functionality includes:

1. Big Data Integration
2. Real time monitoring and Data Analytics
3. Custom Alarms and Alerts
4. Automatic Report Generation
5. Anomaly Detection
6. Near future prediction

Mercury supports the generation of real-time and historical insights on asset performance, allowing engineers to make robust, data-driven decisions. It’s state-of-the-art machine learning and smart alarm capabilities provide an extra layer of reassurance, alerting engineers to potential problems on the bridge. For Transport Scotland, Mercury assures that the bridge is safe.

Solution

Amey Consulting integrated the disparate sensor data sources into a cloud-based IoT analytics platform. The platform provided the engineers with a holistic view of the sensor data. Custom features were developed allowing the user to perform advance analytics on single, or a combination of sensors. Summary pages for the bridge critical assets were created, combining multiple sources of data in one place, allowing the engineers to quickly assess critical information regarding the bridge’s structural health. Finally, custom machine learning models were developed to assist engineers in understanding the bridge behaviour, spotting anomalous bridge behaviour, and predicting the near future behaviour of certain elements.

Outcome

The deployment of an integrated smart data platform to the Forth Road Bridges has significantly simplified the process of data capturing and reporting, reducing the management overhead of these activities and allowing engineers to spend more time on the engineering. When Storm Ali struck the FRB in September 2018, information from Mercury assured Transport Scotland that the bridge was in good health, despite it being closed to traffic due to high winds.

New Civil Engineer has recognised that “The FRB’s system is currently world-leading and many bridge owners and maintainers around the world have visited the bridge to learn about how its life is being extended.”

Hazel McDonald, Chief Civil Engineer at Transport Scotland, noted that “As the structures are ageing, access for major maintenance works is becoming more difficult and budgets don’t always permit optimum and timeous interventions, so the benefits of instrumentation for these structures will increase.”

Pearl - Major Bridges Asset Database

Since April 2018, Pearl, a Major Bridges Asset Database (MBAD) platform, has been deployed on the FRB, alongside Mercury. Together they have formed an integrated smart data platform for the bridge. This represents a huge step forward for the industry, demonstrating how data should be used to support engineers, detect potential problems before they occur, and provide assurance that critical assets are safe to use.

Solution

A key requirement of the FRB maintenance is to undertake a rigorous asset inspection programme, log and track all defects from discovery to remedy, and carry out maintenance work to ensure the safety of the asset. To do this, Pearl offers the following features:

  • A cloud-based architecture and SaaS hosting model. Each user is assigned an individual account with access to features and data according to their role.
  • Outlook-style scheduling of inspections.
  • An integrated tablet and wireless camera with offline working capability. The solution was designed in collaboration with FRB engineers to take account of the challenging and potentially hazardous environments in which they work.
  • Automatic report generation and a reporting dashboard for data analytics and interrogation.
  • A document management system for storage of inspection data, engineering documentation and archive records, that is adaptable to suit any requirements.

Remote access in the field is achieved through an inspection "check-out", "check-in" process. Inspections are first assigned to an inspector for completion. When that inspector logs in to the tablet device, the system downloads ("checks out") all the information required to complete that task without need for connectivity while on site. This download includes both structured and unstructured data, such as checklists, historical defect data, and asset imagery.

Information captured on-site by the inspector is then stored locally on the tablet and staged for upload ("check in") to the cloud once the inspector returns to the office and the tablet detects an authorised wireless hotspot.

Outcome

What began as a trial of innovative technology, has resulted in a fully configurable, scalable, cloud-based data service that empowers engineers and managers to carry out their work with up-to-the-minute asset information at their fingertips. The key to success has been a strong collaboration between asset engineers, software engineers, and data consultants, working together to ensure that the rich streams of information coming from the structure are carefully curated and presented in an easy to understand format that aligns with business needs.

In recognition of the unique capability of Pearl to assist in asset management of ‘big’ bridges, Transport Scotland have commissioned Amey to roll out Pearl to all their major bridges, regardless of whether operated by Amey or not.

Topics: Asset Management Data analytics