Autostrade Tech, IBM and Fincantieri NexTech

Meet the new system for infrastructure monitoring based on Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things.

Autostrade per l’Italia invests 60 million euro in the monitoring and safety of its infrastructures. IBM makes available the most advanced Artificial Intelligence functionalities for data processing, and Fincantieri NexTech brings in extremely reliable technologies and solutions for monitoring.

Drones, 3D models and cognitive data testing will make checks more efficient, transparent, traceable. The system, managed by the Autostrade Tech integrator, is already online through the National Computer Archive of Public Works of MIT.

This partnership is expected to make available on the market a new platform for civil infrastructure management, based on IBM Maximo.

Rome, 24 November 2020 – A new phase is currently underway in the field of motorway network safety and infrastructure monitoring. As of today, the new digital system for monitoring motorway infrastructures is operational; it is based on IBM Maximo and has been developed by Autostrade Tech, the technological company of the group Gruppo Autostrade per l’Italia, together with IBM and Fincantieri NexTech.

It is truly an outstanding result within the framework of the Transformation Plan developed by Autostrade per l’Italia, which has outlined the strategic phases to be followed by the road service licensee as integrated mobility manager, through substantial investment in the area of asset and procedure digitisation, of sustainable mobility, management and delivery of innovative services, also going beyond the motorway network.

The new monitoring platform will make use of IBM artificial intelligence systems, as well as of drones, IoT (Internet of Things) and 3D digital modelling concepts by Fincantieri NexTech in order to radically innovate surveillance and monitoring of more than 4,500 infrastructures on the ASPI motorway network, thus substantially increasing the efficiency and transparency of these processes.

The multi-year partnership agreement signed between Autostrade Tech, IBM and Fincantieri NexTech also stipulates that the system may be made available to the market, either as a service or on premise.

The new system has actually introduced a variety of innovations: its auditors – highly qualified professionals from third-party, internationally renowned, engineering companies – will inspect the conditions of each infrastructure, using a tablet device which will deliver the necessary information in real time: calculations and drawings for the original project and any additional work; planned audits and maintenance; surveys and tests on materials; outcomes and details of any previous inspections. This is a real digital archive, which collects classified information by category, which can then be referred to via an App for optimal use in the field. Also using a tablet, the auditor will be able to feed into the new digital systems all the details and photos which have been collected during the inspection, making them immediately available for the various corporate structures in charge.

The new software tracks and manages the various steps required for managing infrastructures: from planning and conducting audits, to the programming and implementation of maintenance or adjustment work, based on clear concepts of priority, shared with the Italian Ministry for Infrastructures and Transport. Moreover the system is introducing advanced technologies made available by Fincantieri NexTech, which have never been used before on Italian motorway networks, for example the possibility of studying the details of an infrastructure using its three-dimensional Digital Twin, which faithfully reproduces all its characteristics using drones fitted with topographic laser-scanners and ultra-high resolution cameras, producing what can be considered “CAT scans” of the surfaces. A purpose-built system will support technicians in recognising and classifying any flaws, as well as help them plan the relevant monitoring work.

As of today, the platform is being used on the 430 motorway infrastructures of the two Branches in Cassino and Bari; by the end of the year it is expected to be extended to all 1943 bridges and 2,000 fly-overs across the Autostrade per l’Italia network. In the course of 2021 its application will then be extended to maintenance processes on bridges and fly-overs and to all 587 tunnels along the network where – thanks to the Digital Twin system, it will be possible to implement an innovative instrumental monitoring model, using Industrial IoT sensors produced by Fincantieri NexTech and cutting-edge technological solutions, which will make it possible to analyse the trend of infrastructural engineering benchmarks, both static and dynamic, and to construct assessment algorithms of behavioural benchmarks, in operation and during maintenance phases. In the course of the same year, dynamic weighing systems will also be introduced which will make it possible to check compliance with authorised weight limits for Exceptional Transits driving on the motorway, as well as to monitor – in real time – the reaction of infrastructures to heavy vehicles.

The technologies which have been made available by Autostrade Tech, IBM and Fincantieri NexTech will also make it possible to try out – using scientific methods – new models, algorithms and benchmarks aimed at upgrading the safety of infrastructures. For this purpose, Autostrade Tech has set up a Technical-Scientific Advisory Board involving the Polytechnic universities of Trento, Turin, Rome, Naples and Milan, whose task is to coordinate these experimental work, establishing new operatign procedures which will then need to be approved by MIT. The first research project will be dedicated to using state-of-the-art sensors which monitor the behaviour of infrastructures.

The overall investment for the new system exceeds 60 million euro, fully funded by the group Autostrade per l’Italia.
 

"We are working enthusiastically and intensively for a radical transformation of Autostrade per l’Italia. Technological innovation, digitising of infrastructures and their management, environmental sustainability and mobility services to connect our networks with the territory: these are the guidelines that inspire us and are transforming our company into a leading integrated mobility service provider at European level. We have considered it as one of our fundamental duties to make sure that the first objective we achieved was the safety of the infrastructures we manage. I wish to thank the team of Autostrade Tech for their effort, as well as IBM and Fincantieri for supporting us. Working together we expect to be immediately able to launch the new platform on European and international markets in general. I would call it a small watershed”, commented the CEO of Autostrade per l’Italia, Roberto Tomasi.

"Technologies such as artificial intelligence, together with consolidated civil engineering competences, will help us deal with most of the game-changing challenges we are facing, by supporting service providers in managing civil infrastructures as efficiently as possible. More specifically, the project designed with Autostrade Tech and Fincantieri NexTech is intended to support operators and professionals in making the best decisions, more effectively and efficiently. This innovation, based on IBM Maximo Application Suite, will bring the benefits which the country actually needs today. We shall keep working with IBM Research, as well as with strategic partners specialising in civil infrastructure engineering, with a view to evaluating and enhancing our products. These instruments in support of civil engineering can be expected to become increasingly effective in detecting any failure, as well as for risk assessment. We expect to be able to provide further AI upgrades around the middle of 2021, then to continue improving them over time", said Enrico Cereda, President and CEO of IBM Italia.
 

The CEO of Fincantieri Giuseppe Bono commented as follows: “This agreement confirms the relevance of the strategy based on expanding our expertise, a pathway which – over time – has allowed us to strengthen the Group and systematically establish high-end partnerships, in this case Autostrade and IBM. We own invaluable assets in terms of know-how in multiple sectors, accrued through the management of highly complex processes and projects, therefore we are proud - through the high technological level we express – to contribute to pursuing the objective of having increasingly safe networks”. Mr Bono concluded by saying: “This project has brought to light the great attention paid by the Government, specifically by the Ministry for Infrastructures and Transport, which follows our effort very carefully, and in whose service we expect to achieve very important goals in the service of our country".