Detecting fog is vital to keep transportation running safely, yet available detection systems are not very reliable and often expensive.

Now a group of Tel Aviv University scientists have discovered a way to track fog that requires no new infrastructure at all.

Using existing cell phone towers, the TAU scientists have found the wireless transmissions they produce make great fog detectors.

Professor Pinhas Alpert said that his team’s work showcases “the potential that exists in commercial microwave systems, where higher frequencies more sensitive to fog are starting to be used.”

He added that unlike other detection strategies that require a larger outlay of cash for equipment, the TAU approach offers “a window of opportunity to monitor fog with high resolution using technology already in place.”

The other advantage of the TAU detection system is that it will only get more accurate as cell phone technology improves over time.

Most current towers transmit at ground level at 40 gigahertz, a frequency the TAU researchers found could detect heavy fog in the area. Newer towers, however, transmit up to 80 GHz. At the higher frequency, even the lightest fog could easily be detected using TAU’s methods.

As more towers switch over to higher bandwidths and more cell phone towers are added, then, the system will only get better.

This ground-level fog detection is also a great improvement on the current satellite technology and could eventually save lives.

TAU”s Dr. Noam David pointed out that fog is dangerous to people and objects in motion but “current monitoring tools are insufficient” to properly detect fog before it becomes a hazard.

He stressed the new approach developed by the researcher “exposes the potential that already exists in these communication systems to provide high-resolution spatial measurements of fog” and provide valuable information about where fog is located around the world before it causes transportation woes.