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


The recovery of society from COVID19 is resulting in an increase in commuters choosing cycling as the preferred mode to get to work.  This is great for summer, but winter throws up a host of additional dangers.  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 year-round 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.

Case funding

This project is suitable for CASE funding


University of Birmingham


  • Climate and Environmental Sustainability


Project investigator

  • Prof. Lee Chapman



  • John E Thornes (University of Birmingham)
  • Kevin Daniels & Andy Cope (SUSTRANS)

How to apply


This project will take an existing road surface temperature sensor developed by the University of Birmingham ( 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.

Partners and collaboration

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

Contact Prof. Lee Chapman:

See also the following websites:

Applications need to be submitted via the University of Birmingham postgraduate portal,, by midnight 11.01.2021. Please first check whether the primary supervisor is within Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, or in Biosciences, and click on the corresponding PhD program on the application page.

This application should include

  • a brief cover letter, CV, and the contact details for at least two referees
  • a CENTA application form
  • the supervisor and title of the project you are applying for under the Research Information section of the application form.

Referee’s will be invited to submit their references once you submit your application, but we strongly encourage applicants to ensure referees are aware of your submission and expecting a reference request from us. Students are also encouraged to visit and explore the additional information available on the CENTA website.


Possible timeline

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.

Further reading

Chapman, L & Bell, S.J. (2018) High-Resolution Monitoring of Weather Impacts on Infrastructure Networks using the Internet of Things.  Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 99:1187-1154


This project is designed to aid resilience to the COVID recovery.  Large components of the work are desk based and any time needed in the lab could be kept to a minimum due to the maturity of the sensor being used.  Any bike will be suitable for fieldwork and tests can even be done in a back garden!