Road safety, wireless sensor networks and the role of antennas

Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are integral to intelligent transportation systems (ITSs). They are the eyes and ears of modern systems that help improve safety and optimise road transportation. In the United States alone, the yearly investment in transportation infrastructure is approximately 1.6% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with sensor integration and maintenance representing a significant portion of that investment.

What are wireless sensor networks?

A sensor is a device that translates parameters or events in the physical world into signals that can be measured and analysed. These parameters include temperature, pressure, humidity and many more. Applications that utilise sensors often need hundreds or thousands of individual devices to cover large areas, such as highways or road infrastructure. These collections of sensors are known as wireless sensor networks.

WSNs include a significant number of bi-directional wireless sensors that communicate with each other to create a network. This is because many of these sensors are often placed in remote and inaccessible locations, too far away to directly connect with a single central processing station. Because of this, individual sensor devices, known as nodes within a network, will have communicative features as well as its physical measuring/interpreting capabilities.

Each WSN node will communicate with the next to transfer data along a network that will eventually reach a central processing station. The result is a holistic network that provides resilient sensor capabilities over a large area with reliable wireless connectivity.

How do wireless sensor networks improve road safety?

There are a wide range of sensor types that are used in modern road infrastructure that vary in complexity. Pneumatic tube sensors are relatively simple and detect the number of vehicles on a road through the change of air pressure when driven over. On the other hand, ultrasonic sensors calculate the elapsed time between transmitting and receiving sound waves to accurately distinguish vehicle flow and speed.

Each of these sensor types work cooperatively to provide ITSs with visibility of each aspect of road transportation to improve safety in real-time. For example, sensors can detect if ice is present on a highway from cold temperatures so that operators can reduce the speed limit to improve safety.

Many of the traditional sensors used in ITSs are wired, which result in significant installation/maintenance costs as well as time-consuming and disruptive installations for large scale infrastructure. WSNs are simple to implement, easy to perform maintenance and, most importantly, are reliable thanks to their connectivity and low latency.

Why is antenna integration important for wireless sensor networks?

Individual wireless sensors are limited in power. They are usually compact and operate via a small battery source. This becomes a challenge when they are required to bi-directionally communicate on a network, as the antenna becomes the most power consuming component; especially when it needs to both transmit and receive signals. To add insult to injury, this power demand grows as the distance between nodes does, making antenna integration a vital factor of effective WSN implementation.

Fortunately, there are a range of antenna technologies and models that fulfil the needs of WSNs. Embedded SMD (surface-mounted device) antennas exhibit compact size with impressive power efficiency and connectivity. Additionally, FPC (flexible printed circuit) solutions offer an alternative for devices that are limited in PCB space; there are a range of technologies to overcome the challenges of wireless sensor integration.

Find the perfect antenna solution for your wireless sensor network with Antenova

WSN is the efficient and effective future of modern ITSs. They provide the necessary data required to improve road safety and optimise travel overall. Without it, these transport systems would effectively be blind.

To effectively implement a functioning WSN, you need antenna solutions that both suit your designs and ensure connectivity and performance; which is exactly what we offer at Antenova.

We provide a wide range of antenna solutions in compact form, technologies and types, without ever compromising on performance. Better yet, all of our products are designed with integration in mind for large-scale applications like networks, making them the perfect choice for WSNs and ITSs.

To find out more about our antenna solutions and how they can fulfil the needs of your wireless sensor network, contact a member of our team today.

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