IM-SAFE through the eyes of the Project Coordinator

Aiming to ensure the safety of the transport infrastructure during operation through the improvement of maintenance policies across Europe, the European Commission opened in 2019 the call for the Coordination and Support Action (CSA) “Monitoring and safety of transport infrastructure”. In 2020, the CSA was granted to the IM-SAFE project consortium. Dr.ir. Agnieszka Bigaj-van Vliet, Senior Scientist at TNO is the IM-SAFE Project Coordinator. She recently took the time to answer a few questions about IM-SAFE.

Please introduce yourself:
Dr.ir. Agnieszka Bigaj-van Vliet

  • IM-SAFE Project Coordinator
  • Senior Scientist at TNO (https://www.tno.nl )
  • International Federation for Structural Concrete (fib) Presidium member
  • fib T10.1 “Model Code 2020 for Concrete Structures” Deputy Convener
  • American Concrete Institute ACI-318 Sub-committee member

Why is the IM Safe project important?
The main goal of IM-SAFE is to support the preparation of a mandate for CEN standards for monitoring, data-informed safety assessment and preventive maintenance of the transport infrastructure. Despite the constantly increasing number of examples of the use of information from inspection, testing and monitoring to support the safety and risk assessment of existing structures, major challenges are being faced in establishing consensus on standardised approaches.
Among other factors, the lack of consolidation of the current best practices, the fragmented vision on the needs for standardisation and diversity of the opinions regarding the best ways to overcome the political, economic, social and technical barriers are the major obstacles in creating common grounds for European standardisation. The IM-SAFE project consortium aims to overcome this obstacles and by doing so to create solid basis for further development of European standards for structural monitoring and predictive maintenance policies of bridges and tunnels.

How will IM-SAFE contribute to the improvement of quality of transport infrastructure ?
Resources and capacity for conservation and care of the transport infrastructure are limited and should be used in an optimised way to counteract the growing backlog of maintenance. Maintenance deficiency is an urgent issue at both European and global levels: in the last two decades there have been nearly 30 major failures of road and railway bridges and tunnels in Europe with hundreds of people killed and injured. The collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy (2018, 43 people killed) has led to a year-long state of emergency in the Liguria region, an extensive analysis of the structural failure, and widely varying disputes of liability. IM-SAFE envisions a significant role of standardisation in paradigm shift towards condition- and risk-based preventive maintenance through data-informed decision-making, and by doing so the project contributes to counteracting maintenance deficiencies.

What are you most excited about?
One of the major objectives of the IM-SAFE project is to reach consensus in the development and implementation of new standards. Therefore one of the unique features of IM-SAFE is that we constantly evaluate the viewpoints of stakeholders and policymakers. In doing so, we are mobilizing a broad Community of Practice, inviting all to share with us their opinions. We are very positive about the openness and willingness to discuss the needs for standardisation that we have experienced in our contacts with, among others, CEDR, ECTP, IABSE, and EUROSTRUCT.
The upcoming events such as EUROSTRUCT Conference 2021, CACRCS Days 2021, IABSE Symposium 2022 and fib Congress 2022, in which we will share project results, form excellent opportunities to further discuss the vision and approach developed in the IM-SAFE project. We are also actively maintaining contacts with the European Commission, in particular DG RTD, DG GROW and DG MOVE, with JRC, and with CEN and its relevant Technical Committees. Considering various perspectives and understanding the reasoning behind the different opinions is a key factor for reaching the goals of the IM-SAFE project.

Meet the CoP

Turin, Italy

In each newsletter the Consortium would like to highlight a different national CoP by interviewing one or more members. This will provide us with some insights from participants of the IM SAFE project. We recently asked some of the members of the CoP Italy to introduce themselves and to share their thoughts on the IM-SAFE project. 

Please introduce yourself
Gabriele Ribichini – CEO and cofounder of Dewesoft Srl (Dewesoft Italia). Dewesoft (www.dewesoft.com) develops and produce high end data acquisition technologies and products used in many fields of applications including structural identification and monitoring. The company R&D and production is fully located in Europe. Dewesoft is supporting the structural monitoring market since several years with dedicated data acquisition A/D modules (to be connected to any transducer) as well as with innovative accelerometers developed to reduce installation costs on big structures as well as improve signal quality and perfect synchronization.

Clemente Fuggini – Head of Research and Innovation for the Infrastructure Business Unit of RINA Services. I am a civil engineer with +15 years’ proven experience in risk engineering, structural health monitoring, vulnerability analysis and resilience of buildings and infrastructures. I am currently Head of Research and Innovation for the Infrastructure Business Unit of RINA Consulting S.p.A. As such I oversees all R&D&I activities of the Business Unit with emphasis to Infrastructure Monitoring and Maintenance, Critical Infrastructure Resilience and Asset Management, topics on which I am author of several papers and have been engaged in +50 projects.

Maria Pina Limongelli – Associate Professor at Politecnico di Milano.

Andrea Nardinocchi – Production Service Management Director at Italferr

Barbara Salza – City of Turin: waterway bridge and infrastructure service

Why/how are you involved with the IM-SAFE project?
Gabriele: IM-SAFE project is focused on standardization of civil structures monitoring and we are very interested being part of this standardization process. At the base of monitoring there’s the need of good signals from analogue transducers (accelerometers, displacement transducers, strain gauges, temperature, etc). It is trivial to say that the quality of these signals and the relative digitalization is key and come before any data storage and big data analysis algorithm. Years ago, Dewesoft created Monodaq (www.monodaq.com), a company branch dedicated to single channel DAQ modules for distributed synchronous monitoring applications having in mind market requirements for monitoring of big structures where the traditional monitoring system may fail for installation costs or signal to noise ratio issues. Those modules have been widely used in Italy in the last years in buildings and civil structures monitoring (including overpass and viaducts).

Clemente: Because I am interested as stakeholders in the project developments, findings and outcomes especially for what concerns the proposition of new guidelines and best practices in the field of Structural Health Monitoring, Performance Assessment and Asset Management in general

Maria Pina: I have expertise in SHM for structure and infrastructure performance assessment.

Andrea: Italferr is the engineering company of Italian railway system and is responsible for the development of the most important infrastructural projects of railway network. A great effort in Italferr finalized to a definition of a maintenance strategy for the assets managed by FSI is planned in the next years. We are very interested in the definition of a common standard in this matter.

Barbara: As ownership and infrastructure manager.


How does the project play a part in your daily work?
Gabriele: We are fully committed in developing and producing DAQ modules. Our devices are designed over real market needs. Our daily work includes listening to main market players for technical challenges and trying to design innovative solutions.

Clemente: Well, the topic is part of academic background, holding a PhD on the use of satellite technologies for the monitoring of civil infrastructure, as well as this is fully aligned with the research and innovation activities I have been working in the last 10 years.
Indeed I have been working in several international projects dealing with the topic as well as I have published articles, news, book chapter in various conferences, journal and newspapers.

Maria Pina: My research activity is in this field.

Andrea: I think that the availability of a common standard is fundamental in the design of the future infrastructural national assets. The main job of an engineering company like Italferr is to provide good projects in terms of maintainability and safety too and a well specified diagnostic system, useful to allow the infrastructure manager to take adequate decisions, can help the design team in the daily work.

Barbara: Because we use structural monitoring systems.


Which result(s) are you waiting for/excited about?
Gabriele: The market feedback shows that our current products is providing already an interesting innovation (if compared to many others) that helped to save installation costs and improve signals quality and provide perfect synchronization. We are very interested in listening to requirements of all possible installation scenario to see if we can improve further.

Clemente: Clearly the proposal for a new standard in monitoring for optimal maintenance and safety of transport infrastructure.

Maria Pina: Harmonized SHM standards.

Andrea: I will appreciate a unified approach to monitoring and to maintenance with the introduction of common strategies, consequent to a defined interpretation of continuous monitoring. The goal should be the transition from a time-based/corrective maintenance through visual inspections, towards a risk-based/predictive maintenance through data-informed decision-making, including a standardised digital approach.

Barbara: Precise rules and standards for the use and choice of structural monitoring systems.


What will IM-SAFE improve for the future?
Gabriele: A standardization of technologies in this field may help all the current and future manufacturers to cooperate easily and be able to provide compatible bricks of a more complex integrated infrastructure starting from analogue transducers to the big data analysis algorithm.
Several layers of technologies are needed to move from analogues signals to data reports. We believe that there’s no single player able to provide the best solution for all, we expect that several manufacturers need to cooperate providing compatible solutions for different layers or compete in the same layer.
Without a standardization this cooperation/competition will not be possible and perhaps we will end to several different technical solutions with incompatible data, a real failure for the whole system.

Clemente: I hope first at all the proposal for a more standardized use of structural health monitoring in operation, and secondly that the project will pave the way for the introduction (in a regulated manner) of digital technologies (e.g. digital twins, BIM for infrastructures, etc.) as a de-facto standard.

Maria Pina: The design, development and deployment of SHM systems for civil structures and infrastructures that will foster their optimized management. The availability of harmonized standards at EU level will facilitate the achievement of homogeneous risk levels across EU borders.

Andrea: I hope that the results of IM-SAFE will allow the infrastructural asset managers to improve the capability of planning and performing a cost-effective safety and maintenance policy. The introduction of new standardized concepts and methodologies in the structural monitoring, making use of the most innovative digital approaches, already adopted in other phases of an investment life cycle, like BIM, digital twins, IOT and machine learning, in my expectation will constitute a real improvement in the safety and availability of infrastructural European assets.

Barbara: To provide shared rules between the various countries regarding structural monitoring.

Second Pan European CoP Forum Held

Thursday, June 3rd 2021 the Second Pan-EU CoP Forum was held. This time foucussing on the future development of harmonized European standards on monitoring, data-informed safety evaluation and maintenance of transport infrastructure.

During this online meeting participants received an update of the results gathers by the national CoPs so far, including the results of round-table discussions on monitoring and maintenance. Delegates were also provided with up-to-date information about trends, best practices and barriers for implementation; and about the preliminary proposal drafted by the IM-SAFE consortium for the scope of the future European standards.

The workshop included the opportunity to engage in a discussion about the needs for standardisation and the benefits expected from the implementation of the new standards from the different stakeholder perspectives. Opinions and viewpoints shared by the participants of the workshop will be taken into consideration in the following stages of the formulation of the proposals for amendments and extensions to the existing CEN standards.

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