Focus on Technology
2:23 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Winter tech that makes you comfortable & safe

  

Heated Driveways

Tired of walking on snow and ice covered sidewalks and having to repeatedly scrape and plow your driveway? Why not order a "snow melting system" and encourage your employer to do the same?

As you can imagine, it's not cheap. The Chicago Tribune reports doing a driveway can cost as much as a few hundred thousand dollars. But that's not stopping a lot of people from contacting Redi Heating and Air Conditioning. Owner Bryan Vasquez says, "This season alone we've landed so many more new accounts because it's been so snowy." Last week he went on calls for Best Buy and Whole Foods.

The concept of heating driveways and sidewalks is not new. It's been around since the 1970s, but the technology has improved. Here's how it works:

  • Tubing is laid out on under the driveway or sidewalk
  • The tubing is hooked to a hub
  • The hub is hooked to piping which goes back to the boiler system
  • The liquid (50% water and 50% antifreeze) is designed so it doesn't freeze
  • Sensors in the driveway or sidewalk tell the heating system to turn on when it starts snowing

Smart Snowplows

The Federal Highway Administration in Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and New York is testing the Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System (EMDSS). It uses the weather and vehicle diagnostic information on snowplow sensors run through a smart phone and sent to a server to help drivers determine how and when to treat the roads.

Ice sensors are keeping bridges safe in northern Mississippi. One such example is the Coldwater River Bridge which can turn into a giant ice cube tray. But Ice monitors sense ice formation and send an email to transportation officials. They in turn dispatch trucks to treat the bridge before somebody gets hurt.

Cargill makes a special surface to prevent black ice. It has anti-icing and anti-skid properties and releases chemicals to prevent the slippery conditions when needed. One interchange in Superior, Wisconsin that had previously seen 87 accidents, saw just one after the safe-lane was installed. Generally the special surface performed well, but at a few of the test sties the chemicals appeared to be diluted by heavy snowfall and performed no better than the control stretches.