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21.3.2018 8:00

Northern cooperation to research, develop and test smart solutions for winter roads

Climate change brings tangible challenges for winter road maintenance.

Wirma_logo.jpgMild winters and fluctuating temperatures are no longer abnormal in the North. Among other problems this generates, the changing weather conditions put significant pressure also for rightly timed winter road maintenance. In essence, the right maintenance actions need to be performed at a right time, in a right place while the road weather, and the road surface conditions, can rapidly change.

However, smart and digital solutions are expected to bring some relief to the pain. They can aid in knowing what to do and when to do in regards to the winter road maintenance.

More specifically, especially the real-time data collected from vehicles nowadays enables supplementary and better information, for maintenance decision-support, as the contractor is able to see the slipperiness and ambient road weather conditions at a glance from a road where such vehicle data exists. This way the contractor can optimize its resources, carry out the right actions at a right time while providing safety for the road-users.

Still the most promising part of vehicle-based data exists in the data analytics and forecasts developed based on it. Generally, the whole transport automation could greatly benefit from high-density road weather data.

A cooperation network to tackle the challenges

A project coordinated by Lapland University of Applied Sciences (Lapland UAS) is bringing together a network of experts to research, develop and test smart solutions for winter road maintenance, all the way from the level of vehicle-mounted sensors to an end-user test service that runs online.

- We want to bring critical mass to winter transportation research here from the North in order to get results that are more significant and to be competitive in European research arenas. We are collecting data from Sweden and Finland and our goal is to equip tens of vehicles from the main road network. We are not limiting ourselves to one technology, but we are open for cooperation and we are willing to test and compare different ones. We want to work towards higher level of transport automation and an industrial IoT system of systems in winter road maintenance.
Heikki Konttaniemi, Project manager, Lapland UAS

Foreca Ltd. and Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) bring in their weather expertise. Using real-time data from vehicles is expected to considerably improve the road weather now-casting and forecasting as there would be the much-needed local observations from the road network available.

- We have faced an increasing need to utilise vehicle-based observations to dramatically improve the forecast accuracy not only for professional winter maintenance but also for autonomous driving systems. In fact, we already have been able to improve the forecasting resolution from 1 kilometre to 30 metres when and where the mobile measurements are available.
Marko Moilanen, VP Business Development of Foreca


Improved maintenance planning

Moreover, it is not an easy task to plan the winter road maintenance. In railway sector, the planning time spans are several months whereas in roads the maintenance decisions have to be made quickly, within hours or even in minutes.

The Operation & Maintenance team from Luleå University of Technology is conducting research for improving the maintenance planning in winter road conditions. The objective of this work is to come up with an alert management model on most likely maintenance actions to be carried out based on weather and road condition data.

Additionally, a framework to facilitate effective winter road maintenance will be developed. Within the alert model development, good correlation has been already found in different weather conditions and maintenance actions.

Sensing the atmospheric icing on transport infrastructure

WIRMA project  (Industrial Internet Applications in Winter Road Maintenance) will also look at developing the existing sensor solutions. The Arctic University of Norway (UiT) will complement the existing vehicle-mounted sensors by providing their expertise in atmospheric icing detection using the dielectric properties of atmospheric ice. A new hybrid measurement technique will be developed for probing deeper into atmospheric icing layer and minimizing some problems related to current sensors. UiT has been conducting research on atmospheric icing sensor technology since 2011.

WIRMA project runs between 2016-2019 and it has been directed EU-funding from the Interreg Nord programme. Co-financing is granted by the Regional Council of Lapland and Region Norrbotten.

The project leader is Lapland University of Applied Sciences. The co-beneficiaries are Finnish Meteorological Institute, Foreca Ltd., Luleå University of Technology, Arctic University of Norway and Casselgren Innovation AB. There are several co-operation partners from private and public sector in the project.


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