A while ago I read an article about an electric toothbrush that was hooked up with the internet. “What a nonsense” was my first reaction. But a few lines further down I read that this feature made it possible to see on a website whether you brush all you teeth equally well, you’re not pushing too hard, brush long enough and so on. That puts it in a different perspective. In the same way you could equip a concrete poker vibrator with a sensor that indicates how long you compacted one area, how far you moved it to the next spot, how deep it was in the concrete etc. From these sensor data you could perhaps learn about how to do this better. In places where there is no energy available these things become more complicated. For instance you might want to monitor the temperature and vibrations of a construction element to assess its condition, but where would this sensor get its energy from, and how does it transmit the data? Is it realistic to wire a whole construction? And do you really need all these data? The amount of data gathered by equipment and ‘things’ worldwide is exploding and all transmitting and analyzing all these data costs money.
The first generation of sensors could be read-out on-site, and soon after they could store data in a ‘data-logger’. Today sensors transmit their data to the internet by means of some electronics with a SIM-card and a modem that are on-site for the time needed. This is usually called: Machine-to-Machine communication, or M2M. The next step are sensors that are so cheap they will remain in the construction element or product during its entire lifecycle, and that will autonomously analyze the data, and transmit them only when needed, directly, without a SIM card and modem. This is the step from M2M to IoT: the Internet of Things. This evolution is now taking place. For the concrete industry the result might be a low cost sensor you place in the concrete during production, that will analyze the strength during hardening, transmit this information when needed, and that after this hardening period will, for instance, send a warning when the concrete becomes too hot (fire?) or overloaded. The sensor will get its energy from ‘energy harvesting’, which is literally harvesting available energy in its surroundings like heat, vibrations, or radio waves. These sensors will pass on information to each other until it ultimately reaches a gateway to the Internet. Worldwide companies and universities are working on technology for these kinds of sensor networks, for cars, planes, buildings and toothbrushes. ConSensor keeps track of these developments and looks for applications in the building industry. We’ll keep you posted.
Wim Stenfert Kroese