If concrete could talk, what would it say? Giatec knows. Its smart concrete technology is developing IoT for the construction industry, which means enhanced safety and sustainability for the rest of us. With this advancement, I've chosen their CEO to be this month's IoT Hero!
Please introduce yourself and your company.
My name is Aali Alizadeh. I am the CEO and cofounder of Giatec, which develops innovative testing solutions for the concrete industry. We provide concrete quality control tools for pre-construction, and accurate condition assessment devices for post-construction for companies in more than 30 countries. Giatec is rapidly growing its market share as a leading knowledge-based concrete testing company.
How did you get the idea for smart concrete?
We started with stand-alone testing equipment to evaluate the properties of post-construction concrete. We quickly learned that the main challenge in the construction industry is having efficient quality control during construction. Limited time and resources make it difficult to get laboratory test results to the contractor on a job site, so we began working on real-time analysis methods. This led us to the idea of placing fully embedded wireless sensors in the concrete itself, and mobile-based applications for data analysis. We wanted to develop the simplest and most effective method of communicating with the concrete, hence smart concrete!
Our first generation smart sensors monitor the temperature of concrete, from its fresh, beginning stage through to its hardened end stage. A mobile app analyzes the data to estimate the concrete’s real-time compressive strength and evaluate its temperature history. This critical information helps contractors determine formwork removal time, optimize concrete curing, and allow loading on the structure.
What has been the biggest revelation you’ve had in IoT development?
In the past, wireless concrete sensors were not adopted because they were not designed with the end-user in mind. The construction industry had been rather slow to adopt IT technology, largely due to its inherent reliance on sophisticated tools, advanced software packages, complicated installation, etc. Our goal was to make IoT as simple and reliable as possible to get buy-in from the conservative construction industry. That is why we used Bluetooth communication protocol and an intuitive mobile app with very simple steps to install the sensor, connect to it and see the end results in real-time. We were optimistic, and, happily, the final IoT product we developed was well-received. Within a few weeks of launching the product, we implemented the SmartRock sensor in various projects, from Ottawa’s light rail to high-rise structures in Chicago.
How are you using Silicon Labs products today?
Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth microchip is the heart of the SmartRock sensor. Special modifications to the design of the enclosure made it possible to get a Bluetooth signal out of concrete, a solid, wet material. This is a great advantage that allows for mobile-based data communication and analysis. We worked closely with Silicon Labs engineers to design the final product with optimized properties and performance.
In your opinion, what does the future of IoT look like?
Soon IoT is going to be a natural part of our daily lives. In the construction industry, we are getting closer to designing completely smart concrete. This will involve adding a smart multi-sensor in the concrete at the batching plant, like an aggregate in every concrete truck that goes to the job site. Customers won’t have to install a sensor; they’ll only have to download a mobile app. Smart concrete end-users will be able to to obtain all the data on its quality, history, strength, etc. during delivery and pouring. They will also be able to monitor the properties of the hardened concrete over the service life of the structure. This will enable the end-user to report damages, corrosion, cracks, vibrations, etc. The full cycles of IoT-based smart sensing with cloud communication will help us better evaluate the state of smart concrete infrastructure and ultimately address safety and sustainability issues in the concrete industry.
To learn more, watch the recorded webinar “Developing Bluetooth Smart Applications with Blue Gecko Modules."
For more information about the Blue Gecko BGM111 Bluetooth Smart Module, and to download a Starter Kit, click here.