Work zone intrusion research by US EPRI report featuring Detection Pod powered by Intellinium technologies
Work zone intrusion mitigation technologies (WZIT)
EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute is a US non-profit organization that conducts research and development related to the generation, delivery, and use of electricity to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety, and the environment) has issued a report (page 59 and 60) where Intellinium Detection Pod has been identified by US researchers from The University of Alabama as a potential tool to protect and save workers at risks after a work zone intrusion.
Each year in US, it’s about 600 workers dying due to intrusion in work area.
In France, this is also a big concern for companies such as APRR-AREA or VINCI Autoroutes that must cope with intentional or non-intentional cars, pedestrians, 2-wheels engines or trucks intrusion in road work area. According to French ASFA, in 2020, there was 1 accident every 3 days in France related to work zone intrusion in French motorways. Since 2022, 23 road workers die on French motorways.
Below are some spectacular video recorded on French highways.
As shown in those videos, intentional and non-intentional behaviors must be considered. Nevertheless, we believe that intentional behaviors are the most complicated to handle. From our customers, we have heard that some car or truck drivers stop their vehicle, walk to the protective mechansim, de-activate them and keep on driving on unathorized way to save time or even sometimes for drug trafficking (“go fast”). In this case, not only the solution must be protective but it also shall be secured. Somewhere, we also believe that massive cyber attacks will hit road and motorways sooner or later, increasing radically the need for highly secured and cyber-protected work zone intrusion solutions.
The work zone intrusion technology landscape and its shortcomings
There are several work zone intrusion mitigation technologies (WZIT on the market but they suffer from severe shortcomings:
- Power Autonomy is very limited, if not too limited. A system should be on during 5 full days at least.
- Realiability. False positive can be hardly accepted in work area where workers will not trust a system if a detection occurs without serious reasons.
- Detectability. To a certain extent, the protective system shall be able to detect car, trucks, 2-wheels and pedestrian intrusion.
- Size and Weight. Too complicated or too heavy solutions can be a dealbreaker for worker acceptance and use in real-life.
- Set-up time. The set-up time on the field shall be very short, mainy a couple of minutes, not more than 3 mn.
- Mounting / Unmounting procedure. It shall be simple and easy-friendly to use and shall not be error-prone.
- Resistance to harsh conditions. Indoor or outdoor work area can be very challenging in terms of temperature (peak & variations), humidity, sun exposure (UV degradation), oil presnece or other chemical components or even ATEX requirements (explosive environment).
- Warning coverage (a sound alarm can only notify workers nearby, and the distance strongly depends on ambiant noise, wind, worker hearing level…).
- Real-time. The warning should be notified as real-time as possible not only to workers nearby but also to field managers and central monitoring.
- Price. The cost of such protective equipment shall be in line with construction market pricing structure.
- Security. Most of work intrusions are intentional and that’s important to build a protective system with a high level of security (for instance, based on cryptographic-based access control).
- Safety. The solution shall not be a hazard for road users in case of accidental collision. Said differently, in case of a impact, the expulsed equipment shall not represent a hazard for other road users and/or workers neraby. It shall not be of any safety concern for workers neither (EMF risk).
- Conformity. The road cones are internationaly standardized (EN 13422:2019 in Europe) and it’s very important to fit the requirements of the standards when using an add-on on road traffic signs. For instance, the reflective bands shall be always visible and the upper hole must be free of any parts.
A collaboration with APRR-AREA in France to overcome those issues on work intrusion zone
To better protect its own workers, but also to provide other organizations better solutions, APRR-AREA has been collaborating with Intelliniun since 2018.
The goal was to overcome the shortcomings identified and to provide the market something that could substantially adress and solve the work intrusion zone detection and worker warning. To do that, we have created a new product called “Detection Pod” and we have combined it with our “Safety Pod”. That way, we can protect workers through our Safety Pod (Man-Down, Panic Button, Mass Emergency Notification…) but we can also warning them real-time when there is a Detection Pod identifying an abnormal event.
Smart road cone is one example of how to use our technology to protect a work area but there are more options.
And end-user can also use a strap to mount the Detection Pod on a road barrier. It’s possible to magnetically mount the Detection Pod on road signalisation ensuring that any displacement or collision is immediately detected.
The benefits of those different options is to transform almost any traditionnal passive road equipment into a smart & connected protective equipment. That’s the true industry 4.0 paradigm.
Detection Pod for work zone intrusion warning
Technically speaking, a Detection Pod is a highly secured “blackbox” which can log, detect and notify any abormal events.
The device is equipment with a small photovoltaic solar panel that provides extra power autonomy. Our equipment can achieve weeks, if not months, power autonomy.
Altough the device is highly reduce in terms of size and weight, we have embedded enough power and telecom capabilities to process AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms and to connect to almost every telecom network available (LTE-M, NB-IoT and LoRaWAN). We also provide a BLE (Bluetooh Low Energy) connection that could be used for ad-hoc network in area where there is no possibility to get access to LPWAN network (Low Power Wide Area Network).
The security is provided by a NFC reader that can provide end-user access control to offline authorize or not de-activation.
Last but not the least, the device is fully equipment with a large array of sensors that can be used to detect not only impact but also other types of abnormal events.
Preventing and acting before the work zone intrusion
One very interesting way to even better improve the protection of workers and road users is to inform car or truck drivers about road construction area. Most of accidents are not intentional and the goal here is to raise awareness a couple of minutes or even seconds before the intrusion/the impact.
Intellinium has been working recently on 2 differents approaches:
- A new product called “Mat Pod” which is an add-on positionned on the car or truck floor mat. In Intellinium has co-patented this invention with a major car equipment manufacturer. In case of excessive speed at proximity of a road zone, the road users can be immediately notified through vibro-tactile feedbacks.
- A mobile app that can be freely downloaded by car/truck users – Alhtough we do not believe that smarphone can be THE solution, it may be sometimes a useful tool.
ITS and C-ROADS
Work zone intrusion systems could and should be integrated into ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) and C-ROADS (the C-Roads Platform is a joint initiative of European Member States and road operators for testing and implementing C-ITS services in light of cross-border harmonisation and interoperability).
Car or truck drivers could also benefit from Detection Pod abnormal event detection. A road sign is positionned not only to protect workers but also to protect road users. Smart & Connected vehicles drivers could substantially benefit from extra information generated by the road and/or by the road signs located on roads or motorways.
The Safety Pod can be connected offline (using our Bluetooth GATT API) and/or online (using our cloud API) to any source of abnormal detection. For instance, there are some ongoing work and study about using a camera with AI algortithm to detect dangerous behavior on the road close to work zone.
Technicall speaking, our products do not integrate ETSI ITS-G5 (similar to WiFi) or cellular C-V2X (similar to 5G) as those protocols draw too much power from the battery and do not bring extra benefit in terms of coverage or penetration (it’s the contrary). But what can be done is to have a local gateway providing an interface in BLE, NB-IoT or LTE-M or even LoRaWAN.
More use cases that can be covered such as railways, smart industry or smart cities
This type of device can also be used in railways industry and in smart industry. Indeed, work intrusion detection for road and motorway worker protection is the tip of the iceberg as there are a lot of situation where detecting abnormal events can lead to better workforce protection.