Blog July 30, 2019

IoT in the Construction Industry: Concrete Monitoring

This blog is the second of a four-part series diving into the benefits of IIoT in today’s rapidly-growing construction industry.

Make sure you check out the first blog of this series on our website and follow us on social media to stay up to date on the latest IoT news.

Today in Construction

Take a look around you.

Whether you’re reading this at home, in the office or at a construction site, your eyes will almost always land on something that has been made primarily out of concrete. Concrete is one of the most fundamental building blocks of modern society. Everything, from roads to entire cities, is built from this simple mixture of cement, water, and aggregate.

In our last blog post, we discussed how the construction industry – even though it’s seeing rapid growth over the last few years – is still being throttled by old processes and methods. The two major bottlenecks – time delays and overspending – from previous generations continue to affect the way things get built today.

One of the largest sources of these bottlenecks revolves around the same fundamental material we so heavily rely on.

Concrete.

Concrete Curing

The time it takes for concrete to cure is dependent on not just its mixture but the environmental factors at that specific site. Temperature, humidity, and moisture in the atmosphere can slow down or speed up the drying process substantially.

70-in-7 Rule
A standard slab of concrete takes about 28 days to cure to its full strength. 28 days is quite a long time, but companies tend to follow the “70-in-7” rule. Basically, a slab will reach 70% of its maximum strength around 7 days after it’s poured.

By this point, it’s safe to move people and equipment carefully over that slab and proceed on to the next stage. But “70-in-7” is merely a common estimate. It doesn’t take into account specific environmental factors like the ones mentioned above. Structural integrity is not specifically measured.

So far, the only way to know the condition of a slab and when it will be fully cured is through periodic testing.

Today’s Concrete Testing
Construction companies take periodic samples of the same concrete mix that was poured in the slab throughout the duration of the project. The samples are placed in cylindrical molds and sent off to a lab for testing. The lab does a series of controlled tests, measuring everything from strength to moisture content. The results then get sent back to the crew on-site where they can make informed decisions on how to proceed.

The Downfalls
While cylinder tests are very thorough, the results are still not entirely accurate. Remember, these tests are done on samples taken from the same concrete mix that the slab was poured from, but not the actual slab itself.

What’s more is that the whole process takes time. Time to test, obviously, but also time for logistics. Sending the samples back and forth from the site to the lab can add weeks to the schedule.

To top it all off, we’re only going over the process for a single slab here. Now scale it up to the hundreds of slabs used to build a tower and you’re looking at potentially months of project time being used up entirely for testing and waiting.

But with IIoT, all of that changes.

A New Approach

The Internet of Things (IoT) technology offers a more efficient approach to concrete monitoring as it enables distributed sensing and real-time collection of data from concrete. Parameters such as concrete temperature, strength, humidity, maturity, and evaporation can be accessed via the cloud from any device at any time.

Real-time Data Collection
End-to-end IoT solutions for concrete combine sensor hardware, connectivity, and software to collect real-time data from concrete as it cures. As soon as the sensors are placed along with the rebar and activated, critical data from concrete is directly transmitted to your phone or desktop over the cloud.

By eliminating the need for any job site visits to collect data, IoT allows for complete remote monitoring of concrete. This means that you can now focus on other crucial aspects of the building process instead of spending time on sending individual samples back and forth to a lab.

Distributed sensing
Another major benefit of IoT based solutions is that the sensors can be easily embedded within a slab at various lengths and depths before concrete is poured, thus enabling distributed sensing across the entire concrete slab.

This is not only faster and more precise but also provides you with 100% visibility into your concrete’s performance throughout the curing process. In fact, the software component of the IoT setup can also notify you when certain threshold limits – for example concrete maturity and temperature – have been reached, so you can make decisions accordingly.

Conclusion

Since concrete is quite literally the foundation of so many things in our lives, having a reliable way to ensure structural integrity is extremely important. It is exciting to think that such a time consuming and inefficient process can be made better through IoT!

This is just the beginning of how leveraging IoT can revolutionize a conventional industry such as construction. Look out for our next blog post where we talk about IoT and Supply Chain Monitoring in Construction.

Interested in exploring an IoT based Concrete Sensing Solution for your next project? Schedule a call today to learn how AOMS can help!