Bridges are subjected to extreme environmental loading conditions, such as snow, rain, storm, and extreme heat. These factors could cause an expedited deterioration process in the construction materials, such as concrete and steel.
Monitoring the health of heavily used and aging bridges is a very complex task. Most bridges are usually monitored using visual inspections for cracks and faults, which can be a time-intensive process.
Alternatively, sensors are mounted to collect data about their vibrations and movements. However, it would be costly to put these on all bridges.
Now a new study involving MIT researchers has discovered that smartphones can also be used to monitor bridge health.
A team of researchers from the United States Military Academy and MIT have developed an Android-based app to measure modal frequencies from vehicles passing over bridges. So by collecting the movement data from phones, one can monitor if the bridge is safe to cross.
The research was conducted, in part, on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Researchers explained that our smartphones are already equipped with these sensors, especially accelerometers and GPS sensors. Just by a single pass, our phone can gather information about the structural integrity of a bridge equivalent to hundreds of stationary sensors.
“These results suggest that massive and inexpensive datasets collected by smartphones could play an important role in monitoring the health of existing transportation infrastructure,” the authors write.
The research was published in the journal Communications Engineering.