James Fisher Testing Services is teaming up with TWI, Brunel University London and data analytics and software development company K-now to form the SmartBridge consortium, which plans to create digital versions of real-world structures. The project team estimates that, once in use, the initiative could increase operational lifespans by more than 40 years.

The consortium’s plan is to create ‘digital twin’ forecasting toolkit to mirror the life of the actual bridge. The aim is for real-time condition monitoring by creating dynamic 3D models combined with condition-monitoring data collected from sensors on the bridge; finite element modelling; deterioration modelling and prediction; information about the operating condition; and all available historical data.

Matthew Anderson, SmartBridge project coordinator, said: “The SmartBridge project aims to revolutionise the monitoring and maintenance of bridge infrastructure by developing an innovative knowledge-based digital platform that will enable the visualisation of bridge condition and degradation.”

The consortium said that the approach will offer a more informed and detailed representation than contemporary models as it will include real-time information on suspect structural detailing, loading and other significant events highlighted through historic condition monitoring data using dynamic modelling techniques.

The project has received initial support from bridge management teams at Amey and London Underground, with London Underground providing an existing bridge structure to form the basis of the research.

Ash Parmar of London Underground said: “We are keen to adopt innovative and cost-effective methods for getting better information about the true condition of our structures. We do not like surprises when structures are suddenly found to have major defects which may lead to failures, during inspections. A robust approach for using historic information and real-time monitoring data to enable reliable prediction of deterioration and defect occurrence is welcomed. We are pleased to be able to support the development project through the provision of a trial site for use by the consortium.”

It is expected that on-site testing and proving phase will begin this year and continue through 2019.