Smart sensors prepare Sunderland’s roads for Arctic blast


9th March 2023

Topic Safety & Security
Sector Safety & Security

Ten new additional state-of-the-art infra-red (IR) temperature sensors are in the final phase of exhaustive testing across a variety of locations around Sunderland, to provide additional detailed forecast data to better 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” from the ‘Arctic blast’ this week, the smart temperature sensors across Sunderland’s highways are already reaping benefits for city planners.

The data derived from the ten new IR road temperature sensors, in addition to the city’s three existing advanced weather stations, is already enhancing the data-led assessment of road surface conditions. 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 and future planning.


This is better informing gritting teams, keeping the city’s roads safer and clearer over the coming weeks, and during any future wintry and severe weather spells.


These sensors have been carefully selected and the detailed testing continues. The data produced so far has greatly expanded the team’s knowledge of traditionally known cold spots at all elevations above sea level throughout the city.

The essential data that is received from the sensors and then used for winter maintenance purposes includes: Road Surface Temperatures or RSTs, Air Temperatures and Dew Point Temperatures. The combination of these elements is essential for us to better understand the condition of road surfaces across multiple locations, and to enable the Winter Maintenance team to plan the most effective treatments in response.


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.


Andy Wilson, from the Environmental Services Winter Maintenance team at Sunderland City Council, said: “The risk of ice is always apparent during periods of freezing winter cold. Here at Sunderland we are committed to doing all we can to ensure that the city’s priority and secondary network routes are optimally treated at all times and kept safely open to commuters.

“The activation of this smart technology and use of the IR road temperature sensors will give us data and equip the team with the latest information to forecast, plan, and then act decisively at the optimum time.”


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 existing weather forecasts already provided by our forecasting service, DTN Roadmaster. DTN currently generate weather forecasts using the city’s existing advanced weather stations, and the addition of a further ten smart sensors will only strengthen our ability to ensure that priority and secondary routes across the city are monitored in the greatest detail, and 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.