Driving over a bridge or through a tunnel can be a pretty scary ride.

In the past couple of years, collapsed bridges have killed people in Florida, China, Chile, Italy, Myanmar and Taiwan. This month alone, more than seven people were killed when bridges collapsed in China and Taiwan, while in Genoa, last summer, 39 people died.

People responsible for the health of bridges, tunnels and elevated highways can now see a real-time, cloud-based, 3D “medical report” thanks to technology invented at Israeli startup Dynamic Infrastructure.

The company’s proprietary deep-learning image analysis compares daily images of the structure with older images extracted from past periodic inspections.

The diagnostic report can be accessed on a regular browser and shared with peers and contractors to make maintenance workflows more efficient. An automatic alert is sent if potentially dangerous changes are detected.

Dynamic Infrastructure has contracts with departments of transportation, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and private companies in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Israel. These clients operate a total of 30,000 assets.

Dynamic Infrastructure provides a visual “health report” on bridges, tunnels and elevated highways. Photo: screenshot

World infrastructure crisis

“The world faces an infrastructure crisis,” says Saar Dickman, cofounder and CEO of Dynamic Infrastructure.

“The poor condition of many bridges and tunnels leads to loss of life and millions in unplanned expenditures.”

The problem is especially acute in the United States, he notes.

An estimated 47,000 of America’s 616,000 bridges are structurally deficient and in urgent need of repair, according to a report issued earlier this year by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

And yet people cross these deteriorating bridges 178 million times a day.

A pedestrian bridge after it collapsed near Johannesburg in South Africa in August 2017. Photo by Shutterstock

“Till recently, there has been no effective system that can quickly and precisely identify defects in bridges throughout their lifetime,” says Dickman. “We provide actionable monitoring and alerts that can better manage expenditures and help prevent the next collapse.”

Tunnels are also aging and deteriorating. According to the US Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration, about 40% percent of the 350 highway tunnels in the United States are more than 50 years old. Approximately 5% already exceed 100 years of service.

Concrete and iron

Founded in 2018 by Dickman and Amichay Cohen, Dynamic Infrastructure is based in New York with an office inBerlin and R&D incentral Israel. The startup won a 2019 Red Herring North American Top 100 award.

Dickman previously was vice president of automotive cyber security at Samsung-owned Harman. Cohen was CEO of Carmel Tunnels and is currently the acting COO of D.E. Highways Management, where he oversees toll roads and tunnels with an annual revenue of $350 million.

“At Harman, I was exposed to plans for the vehicles of the future but also to the mega-crisis in transportation infrastructure,” Dickman tells ISRAEL21c.

Cohen partnered with Dickman and brought his field experience to the table. The men discovered that there was no off-the-shelf technology to help bridge and tunnel operators make smart decisions on how to allocate ever-shrinking budgets for maintenance and repair.

Although it’s widely acknowledged that mega infrastructure is in dire need of care across most of the world, it takes time for industries to change how they do business.

“Jumping into the concrete and iron world together with heavy regulation is not an easy task,” says Dickman.

However, Dynamic Infrastructure is already making inroads in a variety of geographic regions including Greater Haifa in Israel – which has over 100 bridges and a few kilometers of tunnels – and Suffolk County in eastern New York State.

Bridges are like babies

Dickman notes “a huge similarity between humans and mega infrastructure like bridges.”

Like humans, bridges go through a “childhood” of several years while under construction, and they are built to last about 80 to 90 years.

But unlike humans, bridges don’t have an ongoing medical record to provide valuable information to those tasked with maintaining their health.

“You have periodic inspections, but no one is taking the entire history and analyzing it to tell the larger story from the operation and maintenance perspective. When you put these details into a single picture, you can make a very data-driven decision in line with budgets,” Dickman says.

The startup has 12 full-time employees and an advisory board that includes a former US Department of Transportation executive. It has research collaborations with several academic institutes.

In Dynamic Infrastructures’ business model, the bridge or tunnel itself isconsidered the subscriber for the service, explains Dickman.“We analyze every related image and data point and all the stakeholders benefit from this analysis.”

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