Project Highlights:

  • Using the Internet of Things to monitor road surface temperatures from a bike
  • Development of a system to warn cyclists of ice risk across cycle routes
  • Potentially impactful outcomes

Non-collision incidents are a leading cause of harm to cyclists in the UK causing four times more hospital admissions than collisions with vehicles. Ice has been highlighted at the most significant contributory cause of these accidents, causing more serious injuries among cyclists than any other factor (ROSPA, 2017). Hence, there is a need to work towards reducing these incidents to not only improve the safety of cyclists and reduce the injury burden on hospitals, but also to assist in the promotion of the mode of transport as a healthy and economic alternative for travel.

The Internet of Things is rapidly maturing and now provide the means to develop pervasive environmental sensing at a scale that was impossible just a few years ago. The winter road maintenance sector has already embraced the potential with low-cost sensors now used to augment winter forecasts by local authorities in the UK and beyond (Chapman & Bell, 2018). Local authorities have a duty of care to treat cycle-ways as well as roads, but as the 1826 ice related cyclist admissions to hospitals in 2016/2017 demonstrate, considerable work is still needed (ROSPA, 2017). This PhD will provide a solution to this problem by using the Internet of Things to produce an ice warning system for cyclists and deliver new insights about winter cycling habits.


This project will take an existing road surface temperature sensor developed by the University of Birmingham (www.wintersense.com) and modify for direct use on a bike. The sensor will connect, via an app, to the cyclists phone and issue audible warnings when an ice risk is present. By networking a number of units in the cloud, real-time thermal maps of current road conditions could be produced and relayed to other cyclists on the network, giving warnings of changing conditions ahead (in much the same way as heavy traffic is communicated to motorists via satellite navigation systems). Not all cyclists would need sensors, just the app. This leads to other key components of the project which would investigate how to ensure engagement with the approach as well as policy implications such as liabilities, ownership, data sharing and privacy.

Training and Skills

Additional training will be provided to the successful candidate in the role of the Internet of Things in environmental monitoring. It is envisaged that the student will become experienced designing / deploying sensor networks and associated apps. There will also be opportunities to develop skills in server side data solutions, geographical information systems and modelling.


Year 1: Modification of the wintersense sensor for use on a bike. Policy implications.

Year 2: App and cloud solution development. Uptake and usage research.

Year 3: Data analysis, insights into winter cycling habits.


Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

This PhD is a CASE PhD supported by SUSTRANS, a national charity focussed on making it easier for people to walk and cycle.

Further Details

This project has been selected as a CENTA Flagship project. This is based on the projects fulfilment of specific characteristics e.g., NERC CASE support, collaboration with our CENTA high-level end-users, diversity of the supervisory team, career development of the supervisory team, collaboration with one of our Research Centre Partners (BGS, CEH, NCEO, NCAS), or a potential applicant co-development of the project.