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Student develops low-cost landslide monitoring technology

Landslip Peak District

A low-cost landslide monitoring device has been unveiled by an MSc student at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington.

AccuMM was developed by the engineering and computer science student, Jonathan Olds, for his MSc research project, as an automated solution for the long-term monitoring of landslides.

The technology uses low-cost solar or battery-powered wireless GPS sensors together with a unique, cloud-based algorithm to calculate the location of each sensor, relative to a fixed-base station.

This enables daily measurements to be taken at multiple points on a landslide without the need for site visits, with no line-of-sight or cabling requirements, and no need for intervention at the site for five or more years.

“The holy grail of managing landslide risk is prediction,” said Viclink commercialisation manager Nick Willis, who is working with the researchers to bring the product to market. “But 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 says the traditional method of measurement involves sending a surveyor or engineer out into the field each day to measure land movement with theodolites—a manual, costly process. Even the higher tech options involving robots or drones are costly or have their drawbacks.

Following a pilot in Taiwan, the technology is now being trialled in New Zealand in areas where landslides have occurred, including monitoring the transport corridors in Kaikoura, Kāpiti Coast and Wellington.

“Approximately 66M people—one percent of the world’s population—are currently in high-risk landslide areas,” added Willis “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.”

Professor of Network Engineering in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, Winston Seah, who was Old’s supervisor during the research for the product said: “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.

“We can power the wireless network by energy harvesting, which means our system can operate for long duration to meet the monitoring needs of geotechnical engineers.”

Viclink is targeting the product at geotechnical engineering companies that undertake long-term analysis and monitoring of landslide risk, as AccuMM measures but does not interpret the data or send real-time alerts.

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