Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-9 - 36

Exploiting IoT-Oriented
Technologies for
Measurement Networks of
Environmental Radiation
Rosario Schiano Lo Moriello, Alessandro Tocchi, Annalisa Liccardo,
Francesco Bonavolontà, and Giorgio de Alteriis

R

adiological threat (i.e., the risk associated with radioactive isotopes) is usually associated with military
and civil applications involving either radioactive
weapons or other radiological dispersal devices (e.g., deposits
in soil or water, nuclear plants and so on) [1]. In recent years,
some authors evidenced that limited quantities of radioactive
materials can cause heavy damages and losses if they are ingested or inhaled [2], thus providing criminal terrorists with
alternative strategies for their attacks based on radioactive water sprays, as an example.
Measuring and monitoring the concentration of possible
nuclear pollutants turns out to be advisable or mandatory in
several environmental contexts; the fast availability of an appropriate response plan allows, in fact, the consequences of
radiation to be reduced or completely removed. As an example, technicians of operating or dismissed nuclear power
plants continuously need to sample air, water or soil in different, strategic locations to determine if dangerous slags are
leaking in the surrounding environment. To this aim, several
solutions based on sensor networks, data acquisition systems
and digital signal processing have recently been presented in
the literature to provide real-time information about the radioactive risk [3]-[5].
The authors have started investigating the potentiality of
the Internet of Things (IoT) to realize an integrated platform
based on a cost-effective wireless sensor network (WSN) for
monitoring environmental radioactive pollution [6]. The innovative paradigm of IoT can, in fact, be adopted to design
and implement a new WSN capable of taking advantage of
its fascinating features, to overcome the drawback of a classic
system based on a traditional WSNs [7]-[9]. In particular, scalable and flexible network infrastructure can straightforwardly
be implemented; the scalability and flexibility are associated
with the capacity of adding new nodes of different chemical or
physical quantities (e.g., gamma ray or alpha particles for the
case study of interest) by means of minimal hardware requirements and standard software interface [10]. Moreover, cloud
data management and big data processing mechanisms, typically involved in IoT platforms, can help face the other main

36	

drawbacks associated, such as the relevant computational burden needed to carry out detection algorithms (as an example,
those based on Bayesian methods) [11].
Stemming from their first research, the authors in this
paper the prototype of a fully-IoT platform for radiation monitoring. The realized platform exploits the typical solutions and
protocols provided by IoT paradigm, such as a MQTT messaging strategy and LoRaWAN protocol for data transmission.
Moreover, the adoption of an open-source IoT platform called
ThingsBoard proves its suitability for a fast, secure and reliable
implementation of the monitoring framework.

Proposed System Architecture
The final goal of this research activity has been the implementation of an integrated platform to monitor the environmental
radiological risk compliant with the current enabling technologies of Internet of Things. The monitoring platform mainly
comprises sensor nodes, LoRaWAN communication modules, LoRaWAN Gateways and an Open-source IoT platform
(Fig. 1).
Each sensor node consists of three modules: the radiation sensor, mandated to interact with physical quantity of
interest; a suitable electronic interface, needed for analog
processing the signal generated by the sensor and carrying
out the required measurements; and an embedded Linuxbased system, acting as node control, memory buffer and
exchanging data with the communication modules, as shown
in Fig. 2.
The platform enlists two possible operating states, referred
to as monitoring and identification; to this aim, different sensor nodes have been designed and implemented exploiting
three radiation detectors. Nodes based on a Geiger sensor are
exploited to measure the radiation level during the monitoring
state; in particular, the pulses per minute of the current generated by the interaction of ionizing radiation with the sensor
are continuously counted and their average value is transmitted every 30 minutes to the platform. Thanks to appropriate
threshold values, Geiger nodes can detect anomalous levels of
radioactivity, activating the identification state and updating

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	
1094-6969/20/$25.00©2020IEEE

December 2020



Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-9

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