Highway Resource Solutions (HRS) was part of the team that triumphed at the 2020 Highways Awards to win Industry Product of the Year for the innovative ‘Smart Sign’ digital technology. As HRS celebrates 10 years of excellence, managing director Roger Poeth explains how it all started and the company’s vision for the future.
How did HRS begin?
The concept for our incursion prevention and warning system was developed following a tragic accident caused by an errant vehicle 10 years ago. I was working together with James Jarrett, our technical director, in another venture and we felt strongly that technology had an important role to play in helping to prevent harm to roadworkers.
We were fortunate that potential customers agreed and supported our vision. This enabled us to develop the concept further and eventually led to the creation of our award-winning Intellicone Incursion Prevention & Warning System.
Fast-forward 10 years later, it is great to see how our industry is starting to embrace technology in temporary worksites and use it to improve safety, customer experience and operational efficiency. Today our ethos is very much focused on industry collaboration and ensuring we develop products and services that the industry wants and needs. We continually speak to our customers and it is from these conversations that our forward-thinking design team explores and develops new concepts, services, and devices.
You describe your offering as digital services. Why digital and how does it work?
Our mission is to make existing assets smart in order to provide the right information to the right person at the right time with a focus on assets deployed as part of temporary worksites. An example of this is providing an incursion warning to the workforce in time for them to get to a place of safety. Another example is to provide real-time updates on when and where traffic management is deployed to road users. To achieve this, the ability to communicate with, and between, assets anywhere is required to provide a seamless experience without requiring any set up on site. We do this by using intelligent geozones, which correspond with the physical work area. All smart assets are controlled via these geozones. Not only does this automate the flow of data and alerts, but it also allows assets to interface with each other without human intervention.
Today, HRS provides a range of solutions, which consist of the hire of smart equipment with geozone design services and data; combined, we call these digital services.
Can you give a technical description of the main areas where digital services and highways engineering work together? example as they give our customers the ability to control the speed during major roadworks. This makes it possible to resolve potentially conflicting requirements of running at 60mph to benefit road users while being able to lower the speed to 50mph during peak site activity and 40mph during incidents. This solution has helped a range of major projects open lane capacity early, a big win for road users. Hence, by making use of these smart solutions highways engineering can be safer, more customer oriented and efficient.
What are the benefits to contractors of using digital services on their projects?
Our main focus has been roadworker and road user safety, but our digital services also have a proven track record in reducing cost, improving operational efficiencies and reducing carbon footprint. Temporary traffic management (TTM) is essential to keep roadworkers and road users safe. Making sure TTM integrity is not compromised requires time consuming and carbon intensive routine maintenance regimes. Not only is this inefficient, but it also means that cone strikes could go undetected for long periods of time.
Our vision is to provide self-monitoring worksites that will alert you when there is a problem to allow targeted maintenance. Our Smart Taper system is already enabling remote monitoring of safety critical cone tapers and this year we are launching our new Intelliframe system, which allows remote monitoring of temporary signs. All this combined is a major step forward in making temporary traffic management self-monitoring. The resulting targeted maintenance will reduce cost and CO2 emissions while, for example, ensuring cone strikes are addressed much quicker.
How robust is the technology behind digital services?
The technology behind our services is proven and very robust, it must be in order to operate in harsh temporary roadside settings. A fundamental part of our continuous improvement and development is to engage closely with end users. This helps us to design hardware which is easy to use and capable of withstanding the conditions that they must operate in.
Do you ever think the use of digital solutions will become standard across the industry?
Definitely. Technology-based digital solutions are already recognised and documented in Highways England’s Raising the Bar and within traffic management industry best practice guidelines. It is just a matter of time especially with many forward-thinking companies already incorporating digital solutions into their policies and procedures, recognising the future potential and the need to adopt new technologies for their business to stay ahead
Which sectors do you serve?
Traditionally, we have focused on the strategic road network but our digital services are also increasingly used in rail, street works and general construction.
You won Product of the Year 2020 at the recent Highways Awards, tell us about it.
Back in 2011, at the very beginnings of HRS, we won this well-recognised award for our Intellicone Incursion Prevention & Warning System. This really helped put us on the map.
Winning it again for our Smart Sign, especially in our 10th anniversary year is an acknowledgment of our advancement in technical innovation and as a business in general.
For 2021, we have rebranded the Smart Sign the Dynamic Speed Sign and we are very proud and grateful to our customers for helping us make it a reality.
The Dynamic Speed Sign has come about through Highways England’s foresight in identifying a need for a solution to enable the control over temporary speed limits in response to changing conditions and operational requirements.
The result is a system that makes it possible for road users to benefit from reduced journey times during off-peak operations, while the workforce are protected by a lower speed limit during working hours or incidents.
Tell us about your team and the diversity of people and skills you have.
Our team size has doubled several times over recent years to the extent that we are currently building a new facility to house our expanding team of 50. It is fair to say, the HRS team contains no two people with identical skill sets, making us very flexible. From software engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers to geozone designers and traffic management experts right through to our people assisting with the deployment of our devices, everyone has been selected to fit their role and brings something unique to our business.
What is HRS’s vision for the future?
Our vision is that all temporary work sites are self-monitoring and provide real-time information to all stakeholders. This helps improve operational efficiency while providing road users with accurate information on works locations, status, potential hazards, and delays. One key aspect in achieving this, is to work across different platforms by combining technology assets provided by multiple parties. Our geozone enabled platform has been designed to do just that, which means it is very easy for us to collaborate and share our data with others. The past 10 years have been challenging, exciting, and humbling and we are looking forward to the future.
We believe every road worker should be safe at work and every road user should be safe while travelling through roadworks. It is our mission to continue to bring digital innovation to traffic management to ensure that they are.