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Department of Engineering

Delivering innovative monitoring solutions for data-driven asset management

Delivering innovative monitoring solutions for data-driven asset management

Epsimon's technicians installing Sensorgrid, a fibre-optic instrumented geogrid for early detection of sub-surface ground movement.

Epsimon, a spin-out company from the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, is applying innovative fibre optic sensing solutions and data-driven insights that bring new capabilities to monitoring infrastructure assets.

Collaborating closely with industry enables CSIC to translate research into practice and deliver outputs that industry could adopt to achieve real-world impact. Epsimon is providing this final step in the process, implementing the R&D outputs from CSIC to provide technologically advanced I&M services to industry.

Epsimon Ltd. was launched in 2016 by researchers from the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) to provide specialist instrumentation and monitoring (I&M) services for civil infrastructure. Since it was established in 2011, CSIC has been at the forefront of driving technological innovation in the civil engineering industry, with one of its key areas of work being the development of fibre optic sensing (FOS) techniques.

As the maturity of these techniques increased, Epsimon Ltd was set up as an independent commercial entity to enable the uptake of FOS for monitoring civil infrastructure. Epsimon’s challenge was to penetrate the highly conservative market of civil I&M, bringing new capabilities to the way that infrastructure assets can be monitored and managed based on measured performance data, thereby leading to better-informed decision-making.

Epsimon’s directors are Dr Cedric Kechavarzi, a soil physicist and instrumentation specialist, and Dr Nicky de Battista, a civil engineer and expert in structural health monitoring, who both run the daily operations of the business, and Professor Lord Robert Mair, Founding head of CSIC, Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of Research at Cambridge University and former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers 2017-18. As a spin-out from CSIC, the company calls on the specialist skills and knowledge from CSIC where they maintain close connections – in addition to their roles within Epsimon, Dr Kechavarzi is also CSIC Operations Manager and Dr de Battista is a CSIC Research Associate.

Fibre optic sensing (FOS) techniques

“The UK infrastructure and construction industry had traditionally been conservative and fragmented, operating within very tight profit margins, with no one organisation having responsibility for the whole life of the asset, which makes developing and adopting innovation challenging. It needed to change,” said Professor Mair. “Digital change and emerging technologies brought opportunities to acquire better information on the real performance of assets.” CSIC worked with a number of industry partners over the years to monitor a range of assets, from tunnels and piles to bridges and historic buildings, using FOS systems to collect valuable data on the real performance of assets that would enable better, more resource-efficient and cost-effective decision-making.

Collaborating closely with industry enables CSIC to translate research into practice and deliver outputs that industry could adopt to achieve real-world impact. Epsimon is providing this final step in the process, implementing the R&D outputs from CSIC to provide technologically advanced I&M services to industry.

Epsimon works on some of the most demanding asset monitoring challenges in the UK and internationally. “Experience with FOS technologies and an intimate knowledge of the FOS supply chain enables us to implement robust monitoring solutions that provide valuable insights about the real performance of assets to design engineers, contractors, asset owners and managers – information that conventional instrumentation is not able to provide,” said Dr de Battista.

Monitoring of concrete piles using distributed fibre optic sensors (DFOS)

One application where Epsimon has translated CSIC’s early research into a commercial service is the monitoring of concrete piles using distributed fibre optic sensors (DFOS), which is now a well-established technique included in the guidance document, ICE Specification for Piling and Embedded Retaining Walls (SPERWall)1. By using DFOS, Epsimon is able to measure a pile’s behaviour throughout its entire depth with unprecedented spatial density2. This approach enables contractors and engineers to assess the load bearing capacity of foundations with much greater accuracy than is possible with conventional point sensors. With this information, the foundations of an infrastructure can be designed more efficiently, leading to cost savings and reduction in the carbon footprint of the project. The same DFOS monitoring technique has also been applied to existing piles, allowing foundations to be re-used when a building site is being redeveloped, reducing the number of new foundations required for the new building.

Monitoring sub-surface ground movements

Monitoring sub-surface ground movements under or adjacent to assets is another area of innovation. One of the latest developments in this field is a fibre optic-instrumented geogrid, known as Sensorgrid, developed and tested extensively in collaboration with geosynthetics specialists, Huesker. Sensorgrid provides the sensitivity and spatial coverage required to detect millimetric vertical ground movements due to heave or ground subsidence that can result from, for example, sinkholes, mining legacy voids and dissolution features3.

Early detection of ground movement

Epsimon and CSIC recently deployed 1000m2 of Sensorgrid on a 100 m-long section of the HS2 mainline just south of the Chiltern Tunnels. This project, which is being delivered in collaboration with HS2, ALIGN JV and Jacobs, provides a real-time early-detection system of any impending sub-surface ground movements that could occur in an area that is known to have dissolution features in chalk. Early detection of ground movement under or adjacent to transport infrastructure is of particular importance in light of the ever- increasing occurrence of landslides and subsidence events, and the disruption they can cause to transport services – or even loss of life. This was emphasised by the task force appointed by Network Rail to carry out a review of earthworks management following the fatal train derailment at Stonehaven, Scotland, in 20204.

Providing robust monitoring solutions

In recent years the construction industry has undertaken increasingly challenging projects, both in engineering complexity and sheer size. HS2 is currently the largest infrastructure project in Europe and there are plans to build ever-more challenging projects further afield, such as the NEOM project in Saudi Arabia. “The challenges that such projects bring requires a shift in mindset as to how they are managed, both during construction and subsequently when they are in operation,” said Dr de Battista. “This can only come about by adopting novel but commercially proven monitoring technologies such as fibre optic sensing, to provide data and information to asset owners and other stakeholders that current conventional monitoring technologies cannot give. Epsimon’s mission is to work hand in hand with these stakeholders to provide robust monitoring solutions that address the challenges that lie ahead in civil infrastructure construction and management.”


1 Institution of Civil Engineers (2017). ICE Specification for piling and embedded retaining walls. 3rd ed. London, UK: ICE Publishing.

2 de Battista N, Kechavarzi C (2021). Monitoring of piles and diaphragm walls with distributed fibre optic sensors. In: Proceedings of the Piling 2020 Conference. ICE Publishing. p. 497–502.

3 Xu X, Kechavarzi C, Wright D, Horgan G, Hangen H, de Battista N, Woods D, Bertrand E, Trinder S, Sartain N (2022). Fibre optic instrumented geogrid for ground movement detection. In: Proceedings of the 11th International Symposium on Field Monitoring in Geomechanics (ISFMG-11). London, UK.

4 Network Rail (2021). A review of earthworks management.

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