A smarter approach to winter highways management

26 January 2017
Image of a van in the snow.
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A pioneering project that will enable highways maintenance teams to make better gritting decisions based on local weather conditions is being launched in Hampshire.

Decisions regarding when to grit a road are generally based on weather forecasts provided by suppliers such as the Met Office. These weather forecasts are based on relatively large geographic areas where road surface temperatures vary greatly. This pilot project, however, senses localised road surface temperatures and weather measured specifically on gritting routes, enabling winter service teams to make even better informed decisions.

Amey, who provide highways maintenance services in partnership with Hampshire County Council, have launched this initiative with a number of technology partners in a bid to understand how a more detailed network of weather sensors can influence winter service decision-making.

Working with Mayflower Smart Control, who provide a street lighting control system in the county, and Wintersense (University of Birmingham), who provide an ‘Internet of Things’ approach to sensing road surface temperatures, Amey has overseen the installation of ten sensors onto a priority 1 gritting route in the Winchester area, as well as five new weather stations attached to street lighting columns that use the Mayflower Smart Control street lighting control network to communicate with analysis platforms.

Using lithium battery technology, the Wintersense devices are low-cost, self-contained devices that use infrared  to read the road surface temperature and then use an innovative mix of communication technologies, including state-of-the-art wide area networks and WiFi to connect to the street lighting network and report data in real-time via a cloud system. The weather stations then provide additional information about air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, rain fall and humidity.

With this new source of data, Amey’s Hampshire highways maintenance services can verify the weather forecasts as well as monitor road conditions in real time and base their decisions on more accurate local data. It is anticipated that this new approach could not only save the council money but also reduce the local authority’s carbon footprint, through less running of the gritting lorries.

Rick Robinson, Amey’s Director of Technology, said: “This is an exciting innovation project which will enable Hampshire County Council to make much better use of their resources. We’ve been gritting roads in the UK using the same approach for many years but this new approach could lead to a radical overhaul of how we approach the problem of when to grit a road.”

Cllr Rob Humby, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Hampshire County Council said: “The initial outcomes from the Smart Winter trial are very encouraging and the County Council is keen to explore how new and innovative technologies such as the Mayflower system and the ‘internet of things’ can be embraced to deliver the most effective and efficient winter maintenance service we can to Hampshire’s residents.”

Patrick Mitchell, Managing Director of Mayflower Smart Control said: “The Hampshire ‘Smart Winter’ project is a great illustration of innovation and collaboration to connect IOT devices and begin realising a smart county approach. As Smart street lighting networks are deployed across the cities and counties, it will give greater coverage and provide city and county managers with the option to install other compatible applications to gather more granular data, creating both immediate and long-term insight that will improve forecasting and effectiveness of services.”

Prof. Lee Chapman from the University of Birmingham said “The potential of this for the winter road maintenance sector is transformative and will seriously challenge the traditional methods of measuring, forecasting and decision making that have broadly remained untouched for decades.”


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