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Victoria to Use IoT Sensors to Monitor Bridge Health

The Victorian government will deploy internet of things (IoT) sensors to remotely monitor the structural health of high-priority bridges as part of a new joint venture with an American corporation that sells print and digital document products and services.

Victoria’s Minister for Transport Infrastructure announced $50 million in funding to develop and roll out the technology through a new company in Australia. It follows earlier trials between rail operator VicTrack and the corporation’s Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC), which has developed the sensors.

The fibre optic-connected sensors will be used to reduce disruptions by “accurately measuring and estimating structural strain, thermal response, bending, loads, vibration and corrosion”. The technology analyses data collected from the sensors using advanced analytics to deliver information directly to the bridge owners and operators remotely. Data can be seen in real-time so the bridge manager can monitor whether a bridge has structural problems, has been damaged or needs repair.

The sensors will be capable of identifying problems that are “not visible to the naked eye” or do not show up in manual inspections, meaning issues can be found and rectified earlier. The technology will ensure problems are identified before they become a “big costly problem that causes unnecessary delays to Victorians”.

With thousands of state-owned bridges across Victoria, the government also plans to use the sensors to better prioritise maintenance budgets and target high-priority infrastructure fixes. In 2018, around 68% of the 3027 bridges managed by the then VicRoads required some level of repair, while 43% had not received a detailed inspection in more than five years.

The government is planning to roll out the technology progressively, starting with bridges that deal with heavy loads regularly and that are most at risk of deterioration. The technology could also extend beyond bridges in the future, including roads, multi-storey car parks, tunnels and ports.

Australia’s federal budget prioritises tech

OpenGov Asia recently reported that the federal government announced plans to invest nearly $1.2 billion to augment Australia’s digital capabilities through the Digital Economy Strategy.

The funds, allocated as part of this year’s Budget, will seek to better prepare Australia to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by the rapid digital transformation occurring in every sector.

The nation’s Prime Minister said the strategy will target investment in emerging technologies, building digital skills, encouraging business investment and enhancing digital government service delivery. He noted that every business in Australia is now a digital business, adding that this transformation is not merely a national one that needs to happen — it’s a global one that is happening.

The investment includes $100 million to support improving Australians’ digital skills, including a new pilot program for work-based digital cadetships. In addition, $124.1 million will be allocated to initiatives aimed at building Australia’s AI capabilities. This will include the establishment of a National Artificial Intelligence Centre led by the CSIRO’s data science arm Data 61.

Projects aimed at enhancing government services will include a $200.1 million overhaul of the myGov platform and $301.8 million to enhance the My Health Record digital health system as well as an expansion of the digital identity system.

Other initiatives will include an expansion of the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Service, a Digital Games Tax Offset aimed at helping Australia improve its share of the global game development market and a $50 million investment aimed at enhancing cybersecurity in government, data centres and future telecommunications networks.

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