A new partnership between leading digital mapping company, Gaist and Safecote, is set to transform winter service provision.

THE provision of winter roads maintenance is set to be transformed following a new collaboration between Gaist, the world-leading provider of roadscape insight and intelligence and Safecote, the winter service specialist. The partnership will see dynamic datasets made accessible to provide a step-change in the level of intelligence available to network managers.

Keeping the nation’s vital networks open and safe during the winter period, while also achieving best value from their winter maintenance budgets, presents a significant responsibility for UK councils.

Nightly decision making by Winter Duty Managers over which stretches of the 225,000 miles of network to prioritise for gritting, has traditionally been based on Road Weather Information Systems which combine weather forecast data with road temperature and condition data. Sensors embedded in the roads are connected by cable or mobile phone technology to automatic weather stations. The limitations of these systems are well documented.

As technology has evolved and IoT and smart cities services have advanced, a far richer level of data is becoming  available to councils to provide them with vital intelligence with which they can underpin their winter strategies, inform their decision making and more effectively predict and plan their interventions to ensure a step-change in winter road safety.

Working with Safecote – a long established and highly regarded provider of winter service solutions – Gaist is now able to make available dynamic data sets which exploit this technology.

Using real-time data captured from passenger vehicles, the data-sets combine road friction, roughness and potholes and create a set of map layers to give winter maintenance professionals access to a level of detailed information with which to inform their decisions.

The datasets can be accessed from Safecote, through its BM Road Service System, or independently to provide a level and richness of data that has never been seen before in the winter market.

Christina Liassides, Senior Consultant at Gaist Professional Services, explains: “The level of data will give us a new and more detailed level of understanding of how our network is performing during the winter and insight to help us make better decisions on how to make it safer.

“For a long time Gaist has specialised in delivering data on the condition of the road network but more importantly helping our clients view and use that data in a way that turns it into useful information. That is central to this new service we will be offering with Safecote to those who are responsible for managing winter service delivery,” she says.

Local authorities will understand in much greater detail how gritting routes are responding to treatment, with further information on how drivers are experiencing travelling on those gritted routes through detailed data from tyre friction measurements.

Information such as this can then be considered by winter service personnel as they conduct seasonal reviews of gritting routes. It can also be disseminated through the Safecote BM Roads System to complement existing data on weather conditions and the performance and efficiency of the spreading machine.

“The ability for local authorities to make changes as a result of analysing this data for reviews of the gritting routes and the overall performance of treatments on the network will provide road operators with data that they have never had before, supporting and supplementing the experience of our knowledgeable winter service managers with more detailed information to make better decisions,” Ms Liassides added.

“Continuing to help drive performance improvement on the network is a vital part of what we do, and in this case, we have aligned ourselves with one of the UK’s leading winter service providers in Safecote to help us deliver it.”

Mark Dutton, Managing Director of Safecote, said its partnership with Gaist means local authorities will be in a unique position. “This is completely new data that councils have never had before and never in such detail. Winter service managers have only been able to have data from specific points on the networks where sensors have been installed which only reflects a small area. This data, combined with information from the meteorologists and other sensors as well as through the BM Road System, gives winter service practitioners a much wider and very accurate picture of their network after treatments have been applied.

“Having access to this real-time data produced 24/7 is a real asset to anyone managing the network during winter and will lead to safer roads and better decision making.”

The data could also be used, along with other information, to help provide more robust evidence against any claims made during the winter period, Mr Dutton said. “When an incident does occur, councils won’t just have historical weather data available to them but data that will provide them with the exact condition of the road at any given time.”

Tightened budgets and the annual challenges of winter weather conditions mean the need for innovation in winter highways authority service delivery is greater than ever. The combination of Gaist-accredited datasets and Safecote expertise and systems will give those responsible revolutionary new ways to plan and respond to these challenges.

For further information on this transformational winter service solution, please contact christina.liassides@gaist.co.uk or mdutton@safecote.com