Project: Applications of Smartdust in Transport

Reference: STP 19/5/7

Last update: 03/09/2009 12:40:11


The objectives of the project are:
1. to present a state-of-the-art review of Smartdust communications technologies;
2. to undertake a detailed investigation of likely development pathways and capabilities of these technologies over the next 30 years;
3. to conduct an on-road proof of concept trial using vehicles and roadside infrastructure equipped with Smartdust technology to demonstrate the concept of vehicle monitoring in a real-world environment;
4. to identify and develop ideas on the range of potential applications of Smartdust technology in the transport domain over the next 30 years; and
5. to investigate implementation strategies of Smartdust transport applications over the 30 period considering exploitation opportunities, identification and analysis of potential markets, standardisation and institutional issues and links to other emerging communications technologies.


In the field of electronic communications there is a new and evolving range of networking and communications technologies that have the potential to revolutionise the passage of information between moving vehicles, infrastructure and users and managers of the transport system. Of particular interest to this study is the development of Mobile Ad-hoc Networks (MANETS) which offer a low-cost solution to the need for having available large numbers of intelligent communicating nodes and sensors (MOTES).

This technology is at a relatively early stage of development but crucially offers the potential for miniaturisation (i.e. Smartdust) using nano-technology techniques thus broadening the current scope of possible applications in transport. The aim of this research is to identify the possible development pathways of Smartdust technologies over the next 30 years and the potential application areas of these technologies in transport. This will be achieved by a combination of informed forward-thinking and an on-road proof of concept trial using vehicles and roadside infrastructure equipped with Smartdust technology.

Potential applications of this technology to be explored in the project include automatic vehicle locationing, real-time passenger information, road safety, congestion monitoring and management and pollution monitoring.

Additional information is available at the ASTRA project website.


University of Newcastle upon Tyne, School of Computing Science
Claremont Tower, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £79,845.00

Actual start date: 01 July 2004

Actual completion date: 16 November 2006


ASTRA - Application of Smartdust in Transport
Author: Alan Tully - Phil Blythe
Publication date: 14/11/2006

Summary of results

  1. The trial showed that ad-hoc networks based on current technology are adequate for the propagation of messages in an urban environment. Delays are small, even when many hops are necessary to transfer the message between its source and the point at which the message can be acted upon. The major problem with the ad-hoc networks used in the trial was the isolated sections in rural environments where there were no suitable items of street furniture to carry the network devices. In such cases, it would be necessary to introduce an alternative communications technology such as GSM or UMTS. ASTRA also demonstrated the feasibility of transferring large files (images) across the network.

    The opportunity to harness the potential of new, intelligent infrastructure within the road transport sector will be a major research issue of the next decade. The ability to monitor, sense, manage and communicate with vehicles, the roadside control systems and the driver offers new and currently unexplored tools to manage the road network more efficiently. If the technology develops in a beneficial and coordinated way there are real opportunities for the UK to lead in this area of ITS development. Building on the research at Newcastle University on wireless sensor networks and pervasive information delivery, we feel that there is an urgent need for coordinated research in the UK that will fill in the research gaps in pervasive, mobile ad-hoc wireless systems for a range of transport applications. If these issues are addressed and resolved in an appropriate way, then the opportunities for Smartdust as part of a connected world for future transport is high - and will also help the DfT deliver the vision of intelligent infrastructure envisaged
    by the Foresight project.

    The UK has the capability to develop the components needed for a Smartdust implementation in any of the application areas discussed in this report. However, the UK should select Transport as a lead application area to drive the development of Smartdust technology. Applying Smartdust technology to transport has a good alignment with other strategic imperatives for the UK, for example congestion control, meeting environmental goals and improving safety for road users.