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Research & Technology

Men on a mission

Three students at Saarland University are using sensors to make reflector posts so smart that they can detect people driving the wrong way. The budding engineers are currently competing in the international iCan student competition in Beijing with their "Ghostbuster" prototype.

24 Nov. 2017

"Ghostbuster" is essentially a solar-powered sensor system. It is designed to detect people driving the wrong way and instantly warn them and other road users, as well as alerting the police and radio traffic information services. The early warning system is described as cost-effective by its developers and can be installed in reflector posts along the edge of the road. "In combination with various sensors, the system tracks passing cars and detects if they are going the wrong way," explains Daniel Gillo, who is studying "Microtechnology and Nanostructures" at Saarland University in Germany. The budding engineer developed the sensor system in conjunction with his fellow students Benjamin Kirsch, from the same department, and Julian Neu, who is studying Systems Engineering.

"An infrared motion sensor is integrated in the upper part of the reflector post and tracks every movement within a range of around eight meters. The sensor is in continuous operation, but consumes little energy. Solar cells supply the power," explains Gillo. All the measuring data from the sensors is collected by a microcontroller inside the reflector post that is smaller than a matchbox: "This is where the information is evaluated and processed. Various filters refine the measuring results and make them even clearer," explains Kirsch. The microcontroller then controls the subsequent processes: "Light signals can be triggered on warning signs, emergency signals can be transmitted or warning messages can be sent as texts,” adds Kirsch. “Different interfaces can be controlled, depending on what further action is to be taken. The system can be expanded as required." The sensor system has already successfully passed various tests on the university campus and won its first awards. In June this year, the "Germany - Land of Ideas" initiative and the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure presented the students with the 2017 German Mobility Award ("Deutscher Mobilitätspreis"). An expert panel of 16 judges selected their project as one of ten "flagship projects for safe mobility" from around 170 entries. After successfully applying for an EXIST startup grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, the three students are now setting up a company at the Entrepreneurial Campus Saar with support from the Office for Knowledge and Technology Transfer of Saarland University (KWT). If Gillo, Kirsch and Neu can now also come out on top in Beijing - and teams of students from around the globe are taking part in the iCan competition - they may soon be able to put a stop to people driving the wrong way all over the world.

Universität des Saarlandes (66123 Saarbrücken, Germany)

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