How Mohawk researchers integrated image processing into a mobile app to build a new Smart Cities product

The earth, with glowing lines connecting cities and regions

IRIS  Logo

Ontario-based tech company IRIS Inc. helps municipalities make data-driven decisions through their smart city hardware and integrated data platform, irisGO™. IRIS asked Mohawk researchers to design a prototype of a mobile platform that would monitor road conditions using a smartphone.


Funder: Ontario Centre for Innovation
Research Area: Sensor Systems and Internet of Things (IoT) Lab
Research Team: Dr. Bilal Al Momani, Yi Qi, Sungwoon Peyon

Future Ready Challenge

There’s a reason that local and provincial campaigns dedicated to finding the “worst road in Canada” gain so much attention. Poor road quality is negatively impacting Canadians on a daily basis. Whether you are riding a bike, taking a bus, or driving in a car, poorly maintained roads can mean anything from an uncomfortable commute, expensive repairs, or even an increased risk of accidents. 

In a large Canadian city like Toronto, there can be as many as 3,000 km of local roads that need to be monitored by municipal staff. While city staff conducts manual audits and curbside inspections on a daily basis, the high volume of pavement that needs to be covered means that it is nearly impossible to get timely and accurate data about the condition of a city’s road network. 

However, the rise of “smart cities” and innovative technology infrastructure is making it easier for cities to collect meaningful and time-sensitive data that can help resolve issues faster, saving time and staff resources and creating a more pleasant commute for Canadians.

R & D Collaboration

Tech company IRIS Inc. helps turn municipalities into smart cities, by giving them the tools to make data-driven decisions using irisGO™, the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) hardware and integrated data platform. In 2018, the company wanted to create a mobile app version of their irisGO™ that would make it easier for municipal road workers to capture data from municipal road inspections and evaluations using a cell phone.

To create this app, IRIS would need to combine machine learning expertise with experience in developing mobile apps, creating databases, and developing APIs. IRIS R&D didn’t have the in-house expertise that would help them develop the application, so they asked applied researchers at IDEAWORKS to design a working prototype of the app for testing and validation.

Innovative Results

The mobile version of irisGO™ needed to be able to capture roadway data using the phone’s accelerometer sensor, geo-location services, microphone, camera, and internal processing unit. It also needed to be able to transfer the image data and the related dataset into the cloud for extra analysis and evaluation. 

The Mohawk research team built several iterations of the app, testing the prototype on the road to ensure that when a smartphone was mounted to a vehicle’s windshield, it was able to automatically capture images of the road at pre-defined intervals. Once an image is captured, it is time-stamped and tagged with location data and then displayed on a web-based geographic information system map (ArcGIS) that can be accessed by a municipality’s roadwork team. The way the data is collected and displayed helps municipal staff quickly evaluate road quality and efficiently deploy the necessary resources to resolve any issues. 

After it was launched Fall 2020, the working prototype has been used to run commercial pilots in the City of Hamilton and other GTA municipalities such as London, Hamilton and other cities. By 2022, IRIS has fully commercialized their product and is used widely around the world. The company has also been globally recognized for its contributions to smart infrastructure, including winning a Smart 50 award and being named the Global Infrastructure Hub InfraChallenege 2021 winner. 

“Working with Mohawk College helped us take an idea and turn it into something concrete,” says IRIS CEO and co-founder Emil Sylvester Ramos. “We have been successful because of the people who believe in our technology and our team and the impact we could have.”