Introduction

Imagine knowing if your front door is locked, how much toothpaste is left in the bathroom, if your pizza is ready, or even if your cow is pregnant, just from a smartphone app. Today, almost all information on the global internet was first captured by people by typing text, capturing a picture or scanning a barcode, etc. However, people have limited time resources and it is well known that human factors introduce errors. Simply put, humans are good at generating ideas, but are not good at capturing data about the real world – about things. If computers are able to know about these things without human intervention, we would be able to track and count everything with revolutionary levels of accuracy, automation and low-cost.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded devices using existing Internet infrastructure. In this context, “things” can refer to anything with built-in sensors or actuators, which communicate using the Internet, via existing or bespoke networking channels.

Existing prominent applications of IoT include: environmental monitoring, structural health management, plant monitoring, medical and health monitoring. However, ongoing reductions in cost and power required to connect devices to the Internet is opening many more application areas every day.

Developing applications of IoT on smart roads have focused on traffic management and smart road monitoring for motorways and bridges.

In this project, you will be concentrating on the application of IoT in UK road infrastructure, particularly in rural and remote locations, where communication and maintenance costs are traditionally high. While most road accidents in the UK occur in urban areas, 59% of road deaths in 2012 occurred on rural roads.

Task

Your task is to design a “smart road” using Internet of Things technology. The aim of this project can include: improving safety for road-users, reducing the energy consumed in transportation; reducing costs of road building and maintenance; improving road users’ experience. Can you create an efficient, sustainable, and interactive road?

You should research similar existing applications on smart roads and motorways, including those already using the IoT. This will help you to understand the basic concepts and methodology currently in use. You will need to employ distributed sensors to capture real time information, manage large amounts of data, and design intelligent, efficient control strategies. All the relevant data should be available using an internet infrastructure.

 Considerations

  • Fundamental architecture
    You should first generate a design of the system architecture and feedback, including an explanation of the reasoning behind your design. This might take the form of a flowchart but should include the fundamental structure (e.g. event driven, rule based).
  • Sensing and communication
    It is important to consider what data to capture, as well as the types of sensors or devices used and their placement. How can you improve the accuracy and reliability of the sensors? How will these sensors communicate between themselves as well as with the internet? Which unique identifiers and efficient platforms will be suitable to connect the devices?
  • Big data and data fusion
    With such a large amount of data being collected there will be constraints on its storage, transmission, and the processing of these complex data sets. You should study the big data problem, existing solutions, and consider appropriate approaches when acquiring, processing, and analysing this data. Due to the large number of sensors you are likely to use, data fusion and sensor fusion algorithms may be required.
  • Use and display of data
    Access and security of the data should be considered. How will the processed data be transmitted to end users and how will they use it? Could your system be used to make predictions to improve the use of rural roads? What are the security risks with your system, and how can they be managed?
  • Power
    You must think about how these devices will be powered and maintained. Consider power consumption vs power generation; can the device use energy harvesting or advanced battery technology?
  • Costs
    Off-the-shelf hardware and software may be cheap to deploy but may be inefficient for the task. Bespoke systems are expensive, what are the economies of scale?