New Zealand engineering student Johnathan Olds from University of Victoria, Wellington, has developed an automated technology solution that uses inexpensive battery or solar powered GPS sensors to provide advance notice of life-threatening landslides.
The university’s commercialisation office, Viclink, is working to make the technology commercially available. Nick Willis, Viclink’s Commercialisation Manager, Engineering, said that a long history of measurements are necessary to determine if a landslide is imminent.
“Predictions can only be made if movement – or, more importantly, the acceleration of land mass – can be measured right down to the number of millimetres per day over a long period of time,” he explained.
Called AccuMM, the system remotely monitors land movement using wireless sensors linked to a cloud-based algorithm. According to Victoria University of Wellington, AccuMM can operate without any human intervention for over five years.
The university said this means AccuMM delivers significant cost reductions over manual monitoring methods, which require line-of-sight cabling and daily site visits for engineers or surveyors to measure land movement using theodolites.
“By exploiting the similarity in wireless channel conditions between sensors placed in close proximity, we are able to achieve a high degree of accuracy compared with much higher cost systems,” he said.
Olds validated the AccuMM technology during a pilot installation in Taiwan, and the university is now carrying out trials in areas of New Zealand where landslides have previously occurred.
The university is also seeking to engage geotechnical engineering companies that monitor and analyse landslide risk to help develop real-time alerts for AccuMM.
Landslides can be caused by natural factors such as erosion or ongoing rainfall seepage, as well as human influences including vegetation clearing, leaking sewer or water pipes, or excavation for construction, mining or quarrying.
In Australia, landslide prone regions include the Blue Mountains in NSW, Tasmania’s Mt Wellington and Tamar Valley, Adelaide’s Mt Lofty Ranges, and the Great Dividing Range.
According to Willis, 66 million people live in high-risk landslide locations around the world.
“Add to that events such as global warming, changing rainfall patterns and aging infrastructure and it’s not hard to see the increasing need for this kind of technology,” Willis said.