NEM 2024 Partner Profile: Western University

AI engineering the future: Western University’s advancements in Smart Cities

In recent years, the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its applications have become increasingly evident. From healthcare to education, AI systems like ChatGPT have started to redefine our approaches to various fields, and Smart Cities are no exception. 

Smart Cities represents a swiftly advancing interdisciplinary field that encompasses civil and environmental engineering, software engineering, communications, and others. It encompasses the utilization of cutting-edge technologies, such as sensors and advanced data acquisition and management systems, to enhance the resilience and efficiency of urban operations and infrastructure. Future urban areas will integrate sensing, communication, and management technologies seamlessly to maintain connected and adaptable built environments, enabling real-time monitoring for effective administration. 

Currently, over half the world’s population lives in urban areas. In recent years, densely populated urban cities have transformed using smart technologies such as sensors, cameras, mobile data acquisition platforms, and other networked devices to gather data about an urban environment and its inhabitants. Such data and resulting decisions could make our cities and communities more resilient and sustainable against aging, natural disasters, climate change, or unprecedented events. 

Western Engineering is committed to exploring the role of AI in Smart Cities and its implications.

Civil and environmental engineering professor Ayan Sadhu aims to develop a rapid, remote, real-time, and robust (4R) monitoring system for structural construction and maintenance, ultimately leading to smarter and more cost-effective infrastructure management. This will result in faster construction and maintenance. 

Sadhu explains, ‚Äúdecades of research in construction and maintenance have not prevented our civil infrastructure from deteriorating due to harsh weather and increased traffic, endangering our growing population.‚Ä̬†

‚ÄúRecent sensor technology advances offer civil engineers opportunities to create autonomous systems for quickly building new structures and inspecting aging ones in real time. Yet, challenges like human-sensor-structure interaction, remote implementation, and harsh environmental conditions persist.‚Ä̬†

Sadhu’s team is revolutionizing bridge inspection with cutting-edge technology. They’re using advanced signal processing to inspect bridges in real-time by¬†using¬†passing vehicles¬†and addressing the¬†vehicle-sensor-bridge interaction. Additionally, they’re deploying aerial and underwater drones with cameras and lidar for localized defect detection and classification in structures, all powered by AI.¬†

‚ÄúTo improve accessibility and safety in construction and inspection sites, the team is creating immersive platforms with¬†augmented/virtual reality glasses¬†for real-time measurements,‚ÄĚ he added. ‚ÄúThey’re also building digital twins of aging bridges by integrating¬†internet-of-things (IoT) sensors¬†with Building Information Modeling (BIM) to visualize structural health conditions in real-time.‚Ä̬†

The advanced non-destructive techniques employ acoustic sensors to detect localized defects, and they have developed robust computer vision algorithms for inspecting real-world structures, even in the presence of low-level structural motion. Moreover, the team is working on energy-harvested sensors to manage remote structures, addressing the challenge of continuous power supply.

Read more about Sadhu’s work and some of the other incredible research into Smart Cities happening at Western Engineering.

Learn. Grow. Thrive. Together. 

National Engineering Month is Ontario’s platform for celebrating the remarkable world of engineering. With a dynamic mix of insightful discussions, industry expertise, and diverse viewpoints, we’re showcasing the best of the profession. Join us in advancing engineering excellence, igniting interest in future professionals, and recognizing the vital role engineers play in society. Be a part of the #NEM2024 experience by attending an event. Explore all the exciting details at

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