EQUIPMENT & HARDWARE
Why Frost Control Systems?
Here at Frost Control Systems, our sensors focus on utilizing highly accurate infrared technology to create road temperature sensors. These sensors are mounted on common support structures such a bridge trusses, traffic signal mast arms, and light poles to produce a comprehensive, real time, map of road temperatures.
For our municipal clients, we specialize in using this equipment to bring operations up to the same level of standards as leading Departments of Transportation. Decade old safe and sustainable deicing techniques have yet to be adopted within cities due to rapidly changing and varied road weather conditions within city limits.
For our commercial clients, the focus is getting individuals from their car to their end destination safely. This takes many forms.
For some clients this means a strong focus on pre-emptive alerts produced by the installed hardware system.
For others, it’s about accountability and ensuring parking lots are cleared and treated within a specific timeframe of the 1st snow alert.
A few select clients focus on efficiency and how sustainable deicing can be launched within parking lots.
No Access to Power?
As of 2019, we have developed a battery powered unit for more flexibility in deployments. Common areas of use are bridges and highways, but we have also seen battery units utilized when shared equipment is an issue. For example, when a traffic cabinet is owned and maintained by the county, but the road is maintained by the city, a battery powered unit may be used if an agreement between the city and county cannot be made. The use of battery powered units has seen a steady increase in popularity as it provides much more flexibility with location, installation, and maintenance.
NETWORK & SECURITY
Placement of sensors is crucial when something as simple as traffic can cause ~3° temperature differentials. Road characteristics, such as traffic levels, road composition, and microclimates are all part of the network design. Salt sensitive areas such as streams, “first to freeze”, and safety critical locations like schools or hospitals are equally important to include in the design of the network. We work directly with our customers to create a custom network that benefits their community most.
Frost Control System’s sensors are naturally protected from the vast majority of these high risk security threats because our sensors are installed 20 ft or higher above ground, transmit wirelessly to the cloud, and do not transmit on private, mesh, cluster, or tree networks(see below). Furthermore, they are one of the lowest priority devices to be attacked at the intersection or in the traffic cabinet. In terms of a comparable risk levels, FCS sensors are very similar to a GPS/AVL beacons on city vehicles.
For reference, IOT solutions commonly face security concerns because hardware is easily compromised by experienced security experts and the damage can be tremendous under certain circumstances. While the hardware itself has very little value in being individually compromised, the overall network can be infected in some setups. The figures on the right are examples of high risk IOT networks.
Publicly accessible sensors connected directly into routers or ethernet connections can be the entry point for a virus that takes down the entire network.
Sensor networks where sensors connect to multiple other sensors to reduce costs spent on network backhauls are at risk of a single compromised node infecting the entire network. Similarly, wired connections can also create a point of entry into otherwise secure private networks.
ROAD WEATHER INFORMATION SYSTEMS
What is an RWIS?
A Road weather information system (RWIS) is a device contained within an Environmental Sensor Station (ESS). An RWIS is any location with one or more fixed sensors measuring atmospheric and/or pavement conditions. The RWIS device is able to collect and process the data collected by the ESS to develop forecasts and relay information in an understandable format to aid facility managers and risk personnel in their decision making.
Why use an RWIS?
Road temperature is the number one, most important piece of information when performing winter road maintenance, and is directly tied to the performance of deicing materials, like road salt. As road temperatures drop 5-10 degrees, you should expect to see road salt's melting capabilities decrease by a factor of 5. This is even more important in cities where the conditions can be extremely varied. These variations are caused by differences in road composition, levels of traffic, building density, and microclimates that all contribute to road temperature variations across plow routes.
Why Not Mobile RWIS?
We believe mobile RWIS have hit their maximum potential already. The errors caused by time alone are astronomical. Recording a measurement at 8:30am can read anywhere up to 10 degrees warmer than a measurement that was taken from that same spot at 8:00am. This being said, mobile units lack the ability to obtain temperature readings from multiple locations at the same time which is needed to accurately assess road treatment options.
The only way to achieve the required levels of accuracy is to record the entire city within 30 minutes. This task requires a tremendous number of mobile sensors, and employees to drive them around. With frequent maintenance, required calibration, and low efficiency this practice is not recommended, especially when many deicing decisions are made at 4-6am where very few city vehicles are even traveling on the roads.
FCS' Cellular Solution
FCS uses an embedded cellular chip that is superior to off-the-shelf industrial cellular modems. FCS’s embedded solution was designed and coded from the ground-up by our engineers because the uptime observed while using industrial cellular modems was not satisfactory. For example, since our sensors are fixed they utilize an algorithm that measures how long specific cell towers take to connect and placing the fastest connection as the default which means the time spent at peak power trying to connect is reduced substantially and improves battery life.
Our team is very skilled at taking data and transforming it into real, actionable, information. When one of our key clients with a population of over 300,000 had one of the worst winters in recorded history and were dealing with excessive pothole issues, Frost Control Systems stepped in and created an algorithm to determine the number of true freeze thaw cycles that had occurred. This information was then used as part of an educational campaign to help explain why the city roads were in peril. This is one of many examples of small 10-20 hour projects that have been included free of charge.
“One Screen for Everything” is an ideal that FCS supports wholeheartedly. Whenever cities want to integrate FCS data into other platforms, either for added value, or to consolidate platforms, FCS is happy to help. Our system is designed with integrations in mind and the data can be easily sent anywhere it needs to go.
Validating the Accuracy of our Sensors
During field testing and trials, measurements were taken bi-monthly at various locations in the midwest. All units reported measurements accurate to within ¼ of a degree during the trials and in addition, we have a strict calibration process. After factory calibration, our units are put through a second and third round of calibrations. The second round involves the use of a fully accredited UKAS Lab Certified thermometer (.1℉), and the third round is site commissioning in the field.
FCS Infrared Optics
FCS has a patent pending optical system that eliminates the lens structure. Removing the lens structure, while maintaining structural integrity and water tightness, is a tremendous step forward in utilizing infrared’s tremendous ability to accurately measure road temperature at a distance.
Salt & the Environment
Salt was first used in New Hampshire in 1938 as a cheap and effective way to tackle winter weather related conditions. By 1941 about 5,000 tons of salt were being used on highways nationwide. Currently it is estimated that 20 million tons of salt are spread on US roads every year and that number is only going to increase.
In a study conducted by the Natural Science Foundation they have found significant increases in freshwater pH and salinity. There has been a 37% increase in salinity that is contributing to the 90% increase in alkalization. Another study conducted in Duchess Co. New York found that the sodium levels in 125 wells were at 48 mg/L and 48% of all wells were over the recommended 20 mg/L.
Why Does it Matter?
Once salt is introduced to the water, there are no natural ways to remove that salt causing an imbalance to all surrounding ecosystems. Salt is also very corrosive and can cause major damage to vehicles, roads, bridges, and any other structure it may come in contact with. High levels of chloride in water can also corrode the pipes it flows through, leaching harmful materials into citizens’ drinking water resulting in tragedies like the Flint Michigan water crisis.