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What Are the Technologies That Industry 4.0 Road Managers Can Use?

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The fourth industrial revolution is around the corner, and governmental decision-makers, utility service providers, industrial conglomerates and many other commercial and industrial parties are keener on digital transformation. The road and highway industry is one of the industrial domains disrupted by the emergence of industry 4.0 demands. With the advent of new-age technologies and advanced data-driven business strategies, road utility service providers are also leveraging the power of modern digital technology to ensure streamlining of transportation channels across cities, states and countries.

Continue indulging in this article to learn a few of the most intriguing industry 4.0-defined technologies that have significantly impacted reforming road asset management of the 21st century. If you are a forward-thinking road practitioner, you can use this article as a guide and checklist to ensure your road asset management system accommodates the needful digital technologies. These technologies confirm seamless services, firm asset reliance and longevity and smart resource allocation throughout your road and highway networks.

Contemporary Road Utility Challenges

The state-of-the-art technologies recognised by industry 4.0 descriptions can help road managers to ensure they do not meet severe road problems during operation. Some of the challenges that road utility service enablers can overcome by industry 4.0 technologies are: 

  • Accurately and sufficiently financing road construction, maintenance and resurgence projects 
  • Avoiding tree root intrusion that damages road infrastructure critically 
  • Detecting critical infrastructure assets to prioritise maintenance efforts 
  • Discerning environmental impacts that harm the conditions of expansive roads 
  • Ensuring the safety and smoothness of roads and highway assets 
  • Evaluating road serviceability all the time (in real-time)
  • Limitation of resources 
  • Limited qualified staff to serve road utility programs 
  • Make cost-effective measures to control external costs like congestion, infrastructural damages, noise, environmental issues and more
  • Meeting the customer expectations of the majority of communities to avoid public clamouring and loss of public trust 
  • Overloaded and untimely upkeep strategies that lead to inadequate road maintenance 
  • Predicting infrastructure degradation, risks and damages that affect the performance of the road and highway assets 
  • Understanding how the weather and climate can affect the durability, strength and reliance of road and highway infrastructure
  • Understanding how to make sure highways are sustainable and low-carbon infrastructure

The Unmissable Industry 4.0 Technologies for Road Industry

4D Digital Twin with Immersive Technology

Advanced road management suites are known to be smart- use AI- and integrated to a granular level using the power of IIoT. However, another most crucial aspect in determining whether the road asset management solution meets the required perspective capacities- in other words, how clear and precise they are in giving real-time insights. This is why road managers should utilise the power of 4D digital twin (digital twin environments that enables real-time and simulated road infrastructure conditions. These virtual models can be manipulated, scaled and interacted with using immersive technology like AR and VR to ensure real-like perspectives of hard-to-reach assets. 

Asset Predictive Analytics

Predictive Analytics tools allow road infrastructure manoeuvres to use the power of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) models to understand the degradation patterns, external influences, parametric changes and other future behaviours of road assets. These models have the capacity to predict how the asset will decline in terms of performance when they face risks or breakdowns and what the costs will be incurred to maintain or replace the asset in future. These forecasted insights save an ample amount of time, money and effort in ensuring the wellbeing of road assets (not only roads but also pavement furniture, traffic lights, benches, culverts, bridges and more if implemented correctly).

Cloud-driven CCTV Analytics

CCTV robots are another type of asset technology that allows the road asset managers to ensure that the road condition inspection processes that usually take months cut down process time to a day or few hours. This technology is used by road asset inspectors and evaluators to send IoT robots with CCTV heads down road surfaces to collect footage of the surface and pavement index videos. These videos were later uploaded into a cloud drive. The AI and video analytics models use this data to detect where road damages (potholes, cracks, puddles etc.) are there and how severe they are and tag these damages based on their criticalities. Later these insights will correspond to the public demands and resource availability where the road maintenance teams can tend to road damages in a timely and relevant manner. This technology does not sheerly rely on human intervention and saves a lot of time during road conditions analysis processes.

Disaster Risks Mitigators

Another technology that ensures the longevity, sustenance and reliance of road assets is the AI models and ML algorithms that prescribe disaster mitigation programs. For example, if ‘City A’ has a violent shower of 50 mm/hour for an anticipated time of 30 minutes, the risk of gravel damage and flood is critical. AI technology can integrate weather forecast data to ensure that the road managers have a headstart in securing the road assets of City A by pinpointing road infrastructure parts that are highly prone to succumb to the pressure of the rainfall. AI-driven disaster risk control measures can also activate early warning alarms that can alert the risk mitigation teams in warning the public about the risks and take safety measures to preserve the quality, strength and sustenance of the assets even under critical disaster events. 

GIS Maps
GIS (Geographic Information System) maps created by tools like ArcGIS layers can allow road managers to view road conditions of road infrastructure across expansive and elastic footprints. These maps can display the criticalities (you can also colour tag acres based on risk levels), current conditions and other parameters of assets in a city, state or even a whole country if implemented right. This technology enables an interactive map that can help asset specialists in the road industry to click on road zones to gain fast insights on traffic congestions, serviceability, road safety, climatic hazards, greenhouse gas emissions and other important parameters in a location-centric manner. GIS technology is, therefore, a mandatory technology tool for new-age road managers to ensure seamless road services in their respective areas.

IoT (Internet of Things) technology is one of the most famous industry 4.0 technologies that has reformed the present and future of the road industry. Data is the most critical human-made resource that gives insights based on hidden trends and correlations of processes that helps decision-makers make smarter and failure-proof decisions. The more relevant the data becomes, the more actionable the insights will be. This is why IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is very important in road asset management procedures. This technology integrates all data sources that contain road asset-related data like weather forecast systems, public opinion forums, websites, applications, mainframes, databases, historical data responsibilities, data warehouses and lakes, cloud platforms and other data-rich points into one giant interconnected mesh. IoT is the supplier to all AI models, digital twin environments, GIS maps and all the other industry 4.0 technologies; therefore, road utility service enablers must be keen on who to trust with PLC and instrumentation services to make sure IoT capabilities are exploited to their last bit.

Multiple Budget Analysis Tools
Financing road maintenance projects is another challenge that is faced by new-age road asset managers. Automated multiple budget analytics tools are, hence, one of the most important industry 4.0 technologies too. Using the power of AI and IoT, budget analysis models can be automated to generate budget plans to overcome the tight budgets of road managers. These technologies allow road infrastructure managers to make sure that all assets are sufficiently financed without a single dollar going to be spent in an otiose manner. Road asset decision-makers can prioritise maintenance routines and analyse budget requirements which are usually lower than estimated budgets. This technology does not stop by creating budget profiles for a single financial year but for a period of a decade if the correct data is integrated into ML models via its APIs.
Satellite Supervision
Satellite technology uses remote sensing technologies to combine satellite images with GIS data to provide accurate and real-time geographical references to road managers. This technology is an indispensable technological luxury for urban planners or locates the fastest ways to build roads and detect suboptimal roads. This technology gives a higher view in detecting disaster factors, costly mistakes, and other geological informational supplements that can optimise road management efforts starting from planning, engineering, building, maintaining and reconstructing. This technology (InSAR, SAR, PSInSAR, SqueeSAR and more) facilitate pavement management and is, therefore, a tangible breakthrough that can provide millimetrically accurate details on deformations and risks of road infrastructure, creating invaluable opportunities for road asset managers to be in constant states of good maintenance decision-makers.

Pave Your Way Towards Road 4.0

Industry 4.0 technologies and warping and refining almost every industrial sector of the planet. Amongst the multitude of redefining industries lies the Road Utility Sector, which is now gaining the advantage of clearer perspectives in overseeing road asset networks. The lack of advanced technology is and always will cause most industrial practitioners to be stranded at bay because they miss out on so many opportunities of regaining public trust, managing infrastructure, and ensuring topnotch levels of ROI and service. So, keep a keen eye and tune in your ears for future technology advancements to ensure the best future for your asset-oriented road construction and maintenance centres.
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