Dr Simon Bell PhD

Dr Simon Bell

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Research Fellow

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Simon Bell’s research revolves around the Wintersense project, an ‘Internet of Things’ approach to sensing road surface temperatures. He aims to have a dense network of low-cost, Wi-Fi enabled, contactless sensors deployed across Birmingham by the end of 2015.

Simon has a strong background in the use of low-cost sensing for measuring weather conditions. He is also an enthusiastic Web Developer, always looking to use programming to help solve meteorological challenges.


  • PhD in Computer Science (Aston University 2015)
  • MSc in Applied Meteorology & Climatology (University of Birmingham 2011)
  • BSc Physical Geography (University of Sheffield 2010)


Dr Simon Bell qualified with a BSc (Hons) from the University of Sheffield, where he was awarded the R S Waters Physical Geography Prize for the best overall performance during year three.

Simon then focused his interests towards meteorology, completing a Masters in Applied Meteorology and Climatology at the University of Birmingham.

He was then drawn across the city to Aston University by an interesting and challenging PhD project assessing the quality of citizen weather data.

Having returned to the University of Birmingham Simon is now applying his accumulated skills to the Wintersense project.



Simon is currently working closely with hardware engineers to develop a low-cost infrared sensor capable of measuring the temperature of a road’s surface. As these sensors are contactless and low in cost a network of hundreds of sensors could be quickly and affordably deployed on street furniture across a city.

Using local Wi-Fi networks along with modern web platforms and frameworks the sensed data can be transmitted, collected, and visualised in near real-time. With such a dense network of road surface temperature observations local authorities can make informed decisions about winter road maintenance. For example, the data could be used to verify the accuracy of route-based forecast models, which are commonly used to plan the salting of road networks during icy conditions. 

Citizen Weather Observations

During his PhD Simon used Bayesian techniques to quantify bias and uncertainty in citizen weather observations. There are thousands of low-cost citizen weather stations submitting near real-time data to data hubs such as the Met Office’s WOW website. Simon developed a framework through which citizen air temperature observations could be passed. The framework gradually learnt observational bias and uncertainty over time. Applications wishing to use such citizen observations would then have a metric on which to base their confidence in the data.


Bell, S., Cornford, D. & Bastin, L., 2013. The state of automated amateur weather observations. Weather, Volume 68(2), pp. 36-41.

Bell, S., Cornford, D. & Bastin, L. 2015. How good are citizen weather stations? Addressing a biased opinion. Weather. Volume 70(3), pp 75-84.

View all publications in research portal