October 6, 2014
Photo credit: Luther Caverly

How The Cloud Can Make Smart Cities

How do you collaborate on engineering research across the country? Through the power of the Internet and cloud computing, of course.

A Carleton researcher has a vision for a cloud-based platform that would enable researchers to share information, tools and resources related to research on the management of smart facilities. These facilities include sensor-equipped bridges and industrial machinery, and are key components of the smart cities of the future.

Earlier this year, Shikharesh Majumdar and his team, along with official partner and long-time collaborator Solana Networks received about $475,000 to develop the cloud-based platform, RP-SMARF, (Research Platform for Smart Facilities Management) which should be ready by June 2015.

Other Carleton researchers heavily involved in the project include David Lau, who does remote monitoring of bridges; Peter Liu, who examines the health of machines such as auxiliary power units in aircrafts and gear systems; and Marc St-Hilaire, who works in mobile computing and networking.

Shikharesh Majumdar, project leader and Professor of Systems and Computer Engineering
Team members (L to R) Peter Liu, Mark St-Hilaire, and David Lau of the Faculty of Engineering and Design

Successful research on smart facilities will produce tools and techniques that will lead to a more efficient monitoring

Successful research on smart facilities will produce tools and techniques that will lead to a more efficient monitoring and maintenance of their structural health. In the case of sensor-equipped bridges, for example, it’s possible to reduce maintenance spending – totalling in the billions of dollars – that advanced countries currently budget for. In addition to routine maintenance, sensor data is often used by engineers to examine how an iceberg or a huge storm hitting a bridge affects the structure’s integrity.

One prominent example of a bridge with embedded sensors is the Confederation Bridge that connects Prince Edward Island with the mainland. The challenge, however, is to monitor and analyze the sensor data from multiple bridges across the country. Many bridges are nearing the limit of their design service life. Maintenance becomes even more important to these structures, and can be planned accordingly based on hard data from the bridges.

Similarly, the management of sensor-equipped smart industrial machinery requires the monitoring and analysis of sensor data for machine fault prediction, and to determine the need for maintenance and optimization of maintenance activities.


It’s possible to reduce maintenance spending totalling in the billions of dollars

According to Majumdar, project leader, the cloud-based platform developed with funding from CANARIE (Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network) will be a platform for enabling collaboration among various researchers of smart facilities in the country.

“It’s a large piece of software which will actually be acting as a type of glue for unifying all the various sources of sensor data, the various tools that analyze the sensor data, and the various computing platforms used in the collaborations,” he said.

Solana Networks is Carleton’s pivotal industry partner on the collaboration and were integral to the success of the proposal.

They will be providing professional software developers, who will be managed by Biswajit Nandy.

The project will provide students with the opportunity to acquire the technical expertise they require to become highly qualified personnel in Canada’s high tech industry.

Security will also be paramount once the platform is being used, Majumdar said. “Much of the data is not available to the public, so only authorized people will be able to access this data and use the tools through the RP-SMARF platform,” he said.

Industry partner Biswajit Nandy, Solana Networks

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