UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Heritage Intelligence

Cultural Heritage Environmental Monitoring with Intelligent Sensor Systems

This two-year collaborative project (2008-2010), co-funded by UK Technology Strategy Board aims to develop an intelligent monitoring system for museums and historic buildings, or objects in transit, and for large outdoor heritage buildings and sites. The project builds on wireless mesh sensor technology (a wireless, non-hierarchical, scalable and self organising sensor network) developed by Senceive Ltd.

We integrated a range of chemical and physical sensors into a single "early warning" system. The sensors measure: temperature, relative humidity, vibration, particulates, light (UV and visible), volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde. The remote and reliable gathering of data through the exploitation of very low energy consumption, self-powered, geographically distributed wireless mesh networks is another attractive feature of the development.

Each "node" in the network is small, cheap and robust and can both log data and act as a transmitter/receiver for data. Because of the technology involved, the system should be very flexible - if a sensor or node fails the network can inform the user and the nodes can automatically reconfigure communication paths. The network can be accessed by a wired connection or wirelessly using GSM/GPRS.

The system is being tested on a number of sites and in a number of applications. The crucial role of the heritage partners is to advise on the monitoring needs, to build intelligence into the system and to provide access to historic collections, buildings and sites.

We are convinced that the innovative Heritage Intelligence System represents a true step change in cultural heritage monitoring and management.

Project partners

Senceive Ltd
Centre for Sustainable Heritage
University College London
The British Museum
The National Trust
Historic Royal Palaces
Hutton + Rostron Ltd


Dr Matija Strlic
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Simon Maddison, Senceive Ltd

Catherine Higgitt, The British Museum

Nigel Blades, The National Trust

Constantina Vlachou, Historic Royal Palaces

David Watt, Hutton + Rostron Ltd


Key features of the Heritage Intelligence system:

  • Simple to install and configure with a highly accessible user interface and tools for management of the system
  • Self powered wireless nodes with a long operational life (including power scavenging technology)
  • Ability of the network to reconfigure itself and adapt as objects are relocated (or moved in transit) or sensors redeployed
  • Ability to support multiple sensors and sensor types in a single sensor node (e.g. temperature, relative humidity, light, pollutants and mechanical monitoring such as shock and tilt)
  • Built-in intelligence, so that the network can adapt measurement regimes, identify events and generate alerts.

The Heritage Intelligence System works on the basis of numerous wireless nodes communicating with each other and each carrying several sensors, as required. The number of possible configurations is unlimited.