Keep an eye on the road

A researcher at the University of Arkansas has devised a process that may enable civil engineers to keep an online-eye on the condition of road surfaces.

Associate professor of civil engineering Kelvin Wang and his colleagues have developed a digital solution to road maintenance – the multimedia highway information system (MMHIS) – which is said to use digital cameras to record highway surfaces in real time and store the information directly on computer drives.

‘Traditional systems are limited by accessibility, search capability of the image library, and synchronising video data with traditional engineering data,’ said Wang. ‘More importantly, there are situations in which multiple users need to examine the video footage at the same time. This capability cannot be provided by current systems.’

With the new system, computers and related equipment are used to directly capture, archive, and analyse high-definition images of pavement surfaces.

By applying image-processing techniques to these digital images, engineers can identify distresses in the roadway and determine the exact scope of the problem. Then anomalies such as cracks and holes can be classified according to length, width, orientation or other predefined categories.

MMHIS uses video compression, a video server, a high-speed network and a data-synchronisation algorithm to dynamically link digital video, high-resolution images and engineering data.

This material can then be accessed from a computer on the engineer’s desk or shared among multiple users at the same time. They can see an image of the road surface, a profile of the roadway surface and complete data on the construction and repair history of the road.