Floating sensors: Monitoring water and traffic

CITRIS researchers at UC Berkeley are exploring new ways to use sensors to monitor our infrastructure—including water and traffic. The Lagrangian Sensor project, led by UC Berkeley Professor Alexandre Bayen, is developing new technologies for managing estuarial water systems like the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta of Northern California.


Bayen and his colleagues build innovative floating sensor packages that gather and transmit data while floating in the river; the engineers also develop the analytical tools needed to “assimilate” the data: to put it into context with other sources of information and deliver a complete, integrated view of the state of the water system.


They are currently investigating the use of “active” sensor devices that are able to modify their trajectory through the water, delivering themselves to the places where they are needed most. By collaborating with environmental engineers and hydrologists, they will develop an innovative sensing technology that meets the need for high-quality, real-time data.

Another flowing network—that of highway traffic—also requires innovative monitoring to help alleviate congestion and allow for smoother rides to work. With the emergence of GPS-equipped cellular phones, the possibility of gathering large amounts of data on highways at a very low cost is launching a new era of mobile traffic-sensing technologies.


In collaboration with Nokia, Caltrans, and the California Center for Innovative Transportation, Bayen and coworkers are planning to obtain position and velocity measurements of vehicles using on-board cellular phones equipped with GPS. This technology will penetrate the cellular phone market in an even more prevalent manner in the coming years. The researchers will study how the incorporation of mobile sensing can add value to already existing monitoring infrastructures and add information to areas which are currently unmonitored.