Smart Concrete Paves the way to Safer and Cheaper Infrastructure

December 18, 2017

Built environments across the world are comprised largely of concrete. We tend not to give it much thought, but more than 80% of all infrastructure globally is made at least partly from concrete – whether in bridges, tunnels, carparks, harbours, or skyscrapers, concrete is the building material of our age.

There is however an inherent drawback to the use of concrete – as we currently know it, at least – in these vital and ubiquitous structures.  A concrete structure is only stable so long as the steel core around which it is built is in good condition – once the steel frame starts to weaken and corrode, so does the edifice as a whole.  As things stand now, those responsible for such structures can only speculate as to the condition of these steel frames, because they cannot see them – the concrete itself is in the way.  This blindness to internal wear leaves them guessing over when action must be taken; they only know for sure when they start to see damage on the outside, by which time problems may be too far advanced to resolve fully, or punitively expensive to address. The implications for safety, and the financial risks involved, are substantial: this year, in Germany alone, up to 90 billion Euros of avoidable damage is sustained to public bridges from this inability to monitor the status of inner frames.

The only way to see past the concrete is to have ‘eyes’ in the concrete itself. Thankfully, technology now exists to provide just that.  Innovators have recently developed connected sensors which, placed inside concrete next to steel framing, can assess its condition and transmit readings to those responsible in real time.  Corrosion, humidity, vibration, cracking, changes in pressure – all the symptoms of internal deterioration in concrete structures – can now be monitored cheaply and accurately, and with sufficient ease that almost no training of personnel is necessary. By using Mobile IoT’s constituent technologies -such as NB-IoT- to achieve this, sensors can be placed in the very deepest and hardest to reach locations, and make such low power demands that they need not be replaced for decades, if at all. “NB-IoT is a big enabling technology for us,” explains Benedikt Seuss, Managing Director of smart concrete developers BS2 Sicherheitssysteme. “It helps us to roll out our sensors much more easily, to reduce running costs, increases the power lifetime and, with deeper penetration into buildings, it helps us to have coverage where we need it.”  BS2’s wireless sensors use RFID, meaning they require no batteries – once installed, they can be relied upon for the lifetime of most concrete structures.

The advent of ‘smart concrete’ means that what was a rudimentary building material can now become an invaluable addition to the Internet of Things. The advantages – to human welfare, sustainability and financial cost – are considerable.  Structures whose internal condition can be accurately monitored, and not merely estimated, can be more effectively maintained; their lifespan can therefore be maximised, with repairs made at the most cost-effective point of intervention, and potentially disastrous collapses can be avoided entirely.

Financial savings come not only in the cost of repairs, but in the overall maintenance costs; placing these inexpensive sensors within a structure for its entire lifespan eliminates the need for regular manned inspections, and with it the cost both of the associated staffing and invasive procedures involved. Civic authorities can thereby redirect funds to public services, and the private sector can redirect investment where it is most needed. Nor need there be significant initial outlay to upgrade to smart concrete – as a sully retrofittable solution, it can be installed during routine structural replenishment of concrete blocking.

Enabling infrastructure to communicate its condition to us directly is a vital advance in the development of smart cities, and connected environments more broadly. The avoidance of infrastructural collapse is of incalculable value in the protection of human lives; efficiency savings in everything from waterworks to sports centres could determine viability in a vast array of contexts. We will follow rollout of this ingenious contribution to the Internet of Things with great interest.

BS2 Sicherheitssysteme is an active member of Hub:raum, an incubator that helps startups deliver smart solutions through NB-IoT networks offered by Deutsche Telekom.

Back

Mobile IoT in the 5G Future – NB-IoT and LTE-M in the Context of 5G In the near future with 5G, mobile operators will continue to provide secure connectivity and high value services, enabling a complete range of IoT solutions for consumers and bu...

Read more | See all Resources

NB-IoT Deployment Guide – Release 2 Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) is a new cellular radio access technology specified by 3GPP in Release 13 to address the fast-expanding market for low power wide area connectivity. To ac...

Read more | See all Resources

LTE-M Deployment Guide – Release 2 Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M), also known as licensed low power wide area (LPWA), is a new cellular radio access technology specified by 3GPP in Release 13 to address ...

Read more | See all Resources

On-Demand Video & Presentations: 6th Mobile IoT Summit The 6th Mobile IoT Summit focused on the rapid growth and momentum behind both NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies. Since the beginning of 2017, 43 worldwide Mobile IoT networks have b...

Read more | See all Resources

The GSMA On-Demand Webinar Series 2017-2018 Mobile IoT (licensed spectrum low power wide area) networks are a high-growth area of the IoT and will play an important role in connecting up billions of new devices. Over 40 su...

Read more | See all Resources

On Demand Webinar: Customer Experiences of Live Mobile IoT (LPWA) Networks Mobile Operators around the world have been deploying Mobile IoT rapidly across their networks, with 38 deployments to date. This growth will accelerate in 2018 enabling more bus...

Read more | See all Resources

Mobile IoT and 5G: Complementary Technologies Central to the IoT Mobile IoT will play an integral role in the 5G era – indeed, the technologies already have a complementary relationship today. Mobile IoT refers to low power wide area (LPWA) ...

Read more | See all Industry News

Mobile IoT Meets Industry 4.0 Showcase at Hannover Messe highlights how mobile connectivity will help drive the next industrial revolution Mobile IoT is set to play a central role in delivering Industry 4.0 ...

Read more | See all Industry News

Mobile IoT in the 5G Future – NB-IoT and LTE-M in the Context of 5G In the near future with 5G, mobile operators will continue to provide secure connectivity and high value services, enabling a complete range of IoT solutions for consumers and bu...

Read more | See all Industry News

NB-IoT Deployment Guide – Release 2 Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) is a new cellular radio access technology specified by 3GPP in Release 13 to address the fast-expanding market for low power wide area connectivity. To ac...

Read more | See all Industry News

LTE-M Deployment Guide – Release 2 Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M), also known as licensed low power wide area (LPWA), is a new cellular radio access technology specified by 3GPP in Release 13 to address ...

Read more | See all Industry News

Smart agriculture proves a natural use of NB-IoT Agriculture is core to Norwegian culture, but the sector faces increasingly serious challenges. Of the 46,620 farms in Norway, by the end of the last decade only 125,270 agricult...

Read more | See all Industry News

GSMA IoT at WWRF 5G Huddle May 29, 2018 Hosted by The Wireless World Research Forum (WWRF) and supported by The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the 5th Annual 5G Huddle will take...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

IoT Security: GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Privacy & May 30, 2018 Exclusive IoT Discount The GSMA Internet of Things Programme is offering an exclusive 15% discount for the Mobile 360 Series – Privacy & Security. To receive the ...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

GSMA IoT at Sierra Wireless Innovation Summit 2018 June 05, 2018 The Sierra Wireless 6th Innovation Summit will be held in Paris on June 5th this year at the Novotel Tour Eiffel. Around 400 people are expected to join, learn and expe...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

IoT Summit at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2018 | 世界 June 28, 2018 The IoT was just a concept few years ago, but now it is reality. In 2018 massive IoT adoption will be deployed globally, and we expect to see more to come. With the rap...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

Contact GSMA Legal Email Preference Centre Copyright © 2018 GSMA. GSM and the GSM Logo are registered and owned by the GSMA.