An East Renfrewshire town on the edge of the Gleniffer Braes is at the centre of a trial of a potentially 'revolutionary' road sensor system which could make Scotland's roads safer when dealing with its annual dose of ice and snow.

A cost-effective 'smart gritting' system featuring robust sensors which measure road temperature are being trialled by an innovation team which could bring to an end the annual cry of "where are the gritters".

The sensors installed on roads on the outskirts of Barrhead will allow road maintenance staff to know where to target their winter efforts.

If the pilot scheme which will run throughout this winter is successful it could be rolled out across Scotland.

It is believed to be the first system to make use of such a network of sensors for a 'smart gritting' application.

East Renfrewshire Council has become the first local authority to try out the new system which is supported by CENSIS - the University of Glasgow-based not-for-profit innovation hub launched six years ago.

The sensor system has been installed an area prone to low surface temperatures – to measure the temperature of the road.

Data will ultimately be added to a mapping programme that will identify the roads most impacted by ice and frost.

It will also inform what the CENSIS describes as a "predictive model" that will improve road safety and minimise travel disruption.

East Renfrewshire Council said that the sensors have already been used over and above specialist weather forecast information to "better inform" and change its gritting priorities in real-time to improve public safety.

The sensors system is still a prototype but CENSIS say it is based on "low cost technology" and it "designed to be cost effective to scale up".

CENSIS say it is a "fit and forget type sensor" so does not require additional infrastructure like a power connection to operate, again keeping the costs down.

A CENSIS spokesman said: "No-one else has done this kind of software integration before which is key for making it useable and practical for the councils, and suitable for wider use.

"It’s a series of sensors that measure the road surface temperature, linked to networks to transmit real-time data to the council. That info will be used along with existing weather stations and the mapping system to allocate gritting resource to the areas most in need.

The Herald:

"It integrates with mapping software already used by East Renfrewshire Council and many other local authorities, so councils would not need to invest in new software or train staff on new systems should they wish to deploy this solution.

"It uses two different communication networks to provide the data. This infrastructure and connectivity is available widely across Scotland.

"On the Scotland-wide impact, it could make the process of gritting roads smarter, safer and easier therefore reducing the risk of accidents in the winter and improve pedestrian safety. Data would allow councils to make informed decisions.

Stephen Milne, business development manager at CENSIS, said: “Our work with East Renfrewshire Council is a clear, tangible example of how the use of sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology can bring real benefits to people across Scotland.

“Although this is only an early iteration of using IoT in gritting operations, the information gleaned even from an initial trial will be used for years to come to make the process of gritting roads smarter, safer and easier.”

It is hoped that the technology will help over come the kind of issues that Scotland experienced nine years ago when a freeze brought chaos on roads across Scotland and a thaw led to a £2bn road repairs bill.

The following year councils increased their stockpiles of rock salt to ensure that they did not get caught out.

Scotland’s connectivity minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “It’s great to see sensor technology being used in a real-life application such as smart gritting, helping improve road services and safety across East Renfrewshire.

"This pilot clearly demonstrates the benefits of Internet of Things (IoT) and how it can be applied successfully to public services and design, and thanks to East Renfrewshire Council, CENSIS and the Digital Office for making this happen and wish the team behind the pilot every success.

“Through improved winter maintenance in real-time, and decreasing accidents in the local area, this smart gritting pilot is designed to act as a blueprint for other Councils, fostering better dialogue and sharing of expertise in public services, with IoT very much remaining at the forefront of future-proofed service design."