Montreal / Concordia.

Canadian winters require a lot of salt to make roads and sidewalks safe. The trouble is, getting the right amount of salt requires a delicate balance; it’s too difficult for city crews to adjust on the fly. And so, most municipalities find their infrastructure over-salted.

That’s what Salt Ed wants to change.

Their proposal is to retrofit road plows and salt spreaders with sensors and add a second bed for sand. What this will allow, according to team member Lauren Gaile, is for an onboard computer to take over the application of the different substances according to the weather.

“Existing solutions which are similar to ours are generally complex and require an additional operator because the vehicle’s driver has to concentrate on the road,” Gaile said. “We know that workers are expected to perform under extreme pressure and stressful conditions, so our solution is designed with simplicity and security as a priority.”

Using a thermometer and a humidity sensor, while at the same time monitoring the vehicle’s speed, the Salt Ed system will apply the right mixture of sand and salt to suit the conditions.

In some conditions, salt is the best option, but if the temperature drops too far, salt no longer has any effect, and it’s better to use sand.

Most importantly, the system will prevent excess salt pollution from oversalting. As the snow melts, the salty slush brine heads into the sewer system.

“We are concerned with the melted run-off contaminating our sewer system, because they drain into our lakes, rivers and ponds, the same freshwater sources that we depend on for potable drinking water.” Gaile said, “If we were to wait and then try to fix this problem retroactively by desalinating the water, it becomes a much more expensive and cumbersome process.”

It’s also an economic issue, as salt becomes more expensive and difficult for cities—and the public generally—to obtain. A salt shortage last year led to a price spike, which puts a strain on municipal budgets.

All of these problems Salt Ed hopes to overcome with the help of technology.