TIM - Feasibility Study to develop a Transport Infrastructure Integrity Management Service

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Efficient asset management is required to meet increasingly stringent demands on safety and reliable performance of new and ageing infrastructure under varying and sometimes hazardous environments.  The Transport Infrastructure Management (TIM) Service is planned as a new generation of asset monitoring services that can be deployed across multinational organizations. The concept is based on the integration of location and mapping capabilities of space assets and ground local point sensor networks - delivering data in the most efficient manner.

Objectives of the service

The aim of this study is to assess the technical feasibility and the commercial viability of potential integrated solutions based on sensor data to support maintenance of hard assets such as structures and adjacent land. 

The current objectives include: 

  • demonstrating capabilities of satellite technologies to the transport infrastructure owners and operators 
  • engaging with the users and stakeholders to start a creative dialogue and explore business cases for potential services by focusing on existing challenges 
  • providing a detailed service description by working together with the user design teams during this feasibility study 
  • considering an adaptive platform for a seamless cost-effective data communication and management suitable for future commercial service based on integrated ground and satellite data sources 
  • establishing the multi-disciplinary supply chain capable of delivering this type of data based service.

Users and their needs

The target users are owners and operators of large transport infrastructure assets such as roads and bridges with responsibility for cost effective, reliable monitoring and maintenance. They belong to public and commercial organisations that cover wide spectrum from Department of Transport and local authorities to specific service and maintenance providers. 

The main user is Connect Plus M25 Ltd, commonly known as “Connect Plus”. They are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the M25 and all motorways and major truck roads leading into London. 

Connect Plus is ideally placed to explore different types of services due to variety of assets they manage  A 30 years contract gives them an opportunity to explore longer term options and pioneer ground breaking solutions. Being a consortium of four main EU construction companies they can also provide a gateway to support scaling of the successful services.

Economic factors and need of public safety are imperative requirements for cost-effective and innovative solutions to improve resilience of transport infrastructure and address increasing demand. 

In the operational phase, the desire to minimise costs and environmental impacts, and to monitor stability and degradation, are both important drivers, which contribute to the need to introduce efficient maintenance solutions. 

Some specific tasks include: 

  • assisting in evaluating the actual performance of critical elements on this structure under various loading conditions
  • improving predictions based on understanding of the assets under different environmental conditions
  • understanding evolution of these complex assets during upgrade or construction works carried out in their proximity
  • interrogating the data obtained and present the information in a format that is easy to interpret and hence can be used for decision making by management.
  • taking into account validation of data provided to the end user to ensure it is suitable for decision making processes

Service/ system concept

The service will cover the area of Greater London bounded by the M25 orbital motorway, including the roads, adjacent land, earthworks and structures. It will deliver a long term continuous monitoring of ground and structural surface displacement (movement) in 2D and 3D.

  • The data will be collected, archived and retained for 25 years.
  • This database will be updated frequently at regular intervals.
  • The service will provide information about deformation or movement in a form of maps or selected datasets to be used within the users’ existing reporting software or using customised software. 

Description of the envisaged TIM service is two-fold:

  • A “permanent service”: built upon satellite InSAR data and a limited network of continuous GNSS stations across Greater London, together with the other monitoring data available from ground sensors; and
  • An “application service”: strategic deployment of GNSS, displacement sensors, tilt meters and potentially bespoke satellite InSAR to address monitoring requirements of a specific site within Greater London. 

Permanent Service 

Permanent service will consist of 

  • Level 1: Raw data – sensors data at locations as collected.
  • Level 2: Harmonised map of ground motion
  • Level 2*: Harmonised map with information on quality of data 

Application service 

  • Level 3: This is bespoke service where a location frequency of update and storage time are specified by the user.

Space Added Value

The large scale and difficulty of access to transport networks and other distributed asset infrastructure present unique challenges. Local monitoring gives a limited advantage to the global network.  Satellite technologies can provide a much needed improvement. 

The service will play to the strengths of the measurement technologies. The characteristics of satellite InSAR that are considered key to this project are: wide-area, high density, remote, precise, non-real time. Although monthly and per-acquisition InSAR processing is potentially feasible the tangible value of this is only possible to demonstrate during full scale, medium term trials. GNSS and other ground sensors are far better suited to fulfilling high-frequency monitoring and rapid/near-real time delivery of contemporary measurement data. 

The permanent service will be built upon satellite InSAR and a network of continuous GNSS stations across Greater London. The information will be enhanced by integrating a growing database of local ground data obtained during monitoring of individual buildings. 

This service will take advantage of a new family of missions called Sentinels being developed by ESA. Each Sentinel mission is based on a constellation of two satellites to fulfil revisit and coverage requirements, providing robust continuous datasets.  The continuity of missions has never been available before but will make this service technically feasible. Bespoke satellite InSAR will be used where applicable and commercially justifiable.

Product Benefits

Beyond the feasibility study, the vision for this work is the deployment of integrated validated knowledge services for infrastructure management. 

The main objective of the information service is to provide the basis for a probabilistic risk analysis, using real data and the ability to demonstrate historical demand levels and remaining life of structures and their components. 

The integration of structural and environmental monitoring and creation of infrastructure specific data services will improve understanding of the effects of any long-term global or regional changes (temperature, flood/draught, strong winds and waves) and also short-term natural hazards. It will help the users to predict the performance of the assets and ensure the resilience of transport infrastructure. 

The use of satellite technology will help to carry out some elements of the mandatory inspections remotely and reduce the interface between inspector operatives and live traffic. It will be an important benefit to improve safety to road works and the public across the transport network.

Product Features

The generic service diagram illustrates the features of a future service operation.

Key features will include: 

  • Long – term permanent service with regular updates 
  • The viability of the TIM service for Greater London is dependent upon the operational provision of accurate, integrated, timely and cost-effective deformation measurements. 
  • The sustainability of permanent services is ensured by a multi-user business model. The concept was evaluated in detail during this feasibility study.

Key Issues

The main technical challenges are to integrate ground and remote sensing data sources in a cost effective way. This includes ‘plug and play’ platform for efficient communication and also effective solutions to store and manage large quantity of data. 

To demonstrate commercial sustainability of a monitoring service and develop a strong business case is not straightforward at the time when public spending needs to be constrained and funding of transport infrastructure involves the attraction of new sources and formats of finance. However, this brings new opportunities for data services to address increasing demand on the efficiency and effectiveness of all infrastructure provision processes. 

The next stage is to transform sensing data into reliable information products to satisfy users’ requirements in safety critical and highly regulated areas such as transport. Significant work is needed so that inferences based on data from distributed sensing network can be made with the similar level of confidence as those derived from a single calibrated sensor measurement. This is addressed in a follow-on Demonstrator.

Current Status

The feasibility study has been completed with the final review on 27 March 2015. 

The main outcomes of the TIM feasibility study are:
- Development of a method to select the best available data sources for deformation / movement of transport infrastructures;
- Engagement with the transport operators acting in the geographical area of Greater London bounded by the M25 motorway which is one of the busiest transport infrastructure areas;
- Definition of the service value chain (with actors, partnership and roles) for implementing the TIM service for the whole Greater London area.

An IAP Demonstration Project is under discussion and is planned to start in 2016

Status Date

Updated: 16 June 2015 - Created: 14 April 2014