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Smart sensors prepare Sunderland’s road users for Arctic blast

This media release/news item was published prior to our rebrand to Boldyn Networks in June 2023. Learn more about our rebrand here.

Ten smart infra-red (IR) temperature sensors have been fitted across a variety of locations around Sunderland to provide data and intelligence to inform the city’s winter maintenance team.

With the long range forecast from the Met Office stating that the north is likely to continue to see “widespread frost and ice” with the approach of an ‘Arctic blast’ this week, the smart temperature sensors across Sunderland’s highways are already reaping benefits for city planners.

The data derived from the road temperature sensors is enabling data-led assessment and more agile decision making to inform gritting teams and keep the city’s roads safer and clearer over the coming weeks, as well as during future wintry and severe weather spells.

These sensors have been carefully selected based on existing knowledge of traditionally known cold spots at all elevations above sea level. In particular, this smart initiative is providing a far greater understanding of the coldest locations across Sunderland’s priority and secondary road network, paving the way to more effective monitoring, gritting time efficiencies and future planning.

The sensors are connected to one of the City Council’s new wireless networks that is specially designed for transmitting low volume data over a wide area.  Both have been provided as part of the city council’s strategic partnership with BAI Communications, as well as a new smart city data platform. Capabilities which are transforming the way services can be provided for residents and businesses in Sunderland.

Data from the sensors flows over the network into the council’s smart city data platform, where it can be combined with other data sources if necessary and sent on for winter maintenance purposes, which includes assessing Road Surface Temperatures or RSTs, Air Temperature and Dew Point Temperature. The combination of these elements is essential to understand the temperature of an untreated road surface and the most suitable plan to best manage winter forecasting and effective treatment.

Andy Wilson, from the Environmental Services Winter Maintenance team at Sunderland City Council, said: “With freezing overnight temperatures and the risk of ice, as a team we are committed to do all we can to forewarn motorists and pedestrians across the city of adverse weather conditions and treat our highways accordingly.

“Our aim is to ensure that priority and secondary network routes are optimally treated and kept open wherever practicable. The activation of this smart technology and use of the IR road temperature sensors is giving us data and equipping the team with timely information to plan, forecast and take appropriate action.”

Liz St Louis, director of smart cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “Keeping the city moving, whilst prioritising the safety of our residents is our core aim. We know that cold or more severe weather can cause disruption and safety concerns, but we are better equipped than ever before to utilise digital technology to support the planning and implementation of solutions. The smart road temperature sensors are another example of the strides we are taking to digitally transform Sunderland for the benefit of all who live, work, play and invest here.”

Claire Venners, General Manager at BAI North, said: “It is very exciting to be announcing today another initiative on our smart city journey. This real world application of technology is just one of a number of potential use cases, and Sunderland’s smart city vision is demonstrating the value technology can deliver to residents, businesses and the economy across transport, health, education and more.”

Andy added: “The new IR sensors are already enhancing the weather forecasts produced by our existing network of complex weather monitoring stations around the city.

“The real time data from the road temperature sensors feeds directly into the weather forecasts provided by existing forecast provider, DTN Roadmaster, and strengthens the council’s ability to ensure that priority and secondary routes across the city are always optimally treated during periods of freezing winter cold.”

Just one of the latest smart initiatives on Sunderland’s smart city journey, the wealth of data already being supplied from the smart sensors that are in place has immediately provided a much more detailed picture of the city’s real-time weather conditions.