Case Studies

Smart Structures

Sensors? Ask the experts with 10 years’ history of embedded sensors
  • Written by: Submitted by Smart Structures
  • Produced by: Joe Atwood
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

The era of smart, connected Internet of things (IoT) is all around us – smart phones, smart cars, smart buildings, smart homes, smart cities and even smart material. By the time these words became popular, Smart Structures moved ahead building a history of for over a decade in embedment sensors.

Sensors underutilized in transportation sector…

Sensors are still underused, especially in infrastructure design, construction and maintenance. As States across the nation inspect their bridge inventory to determine maintenance and rehabilitation needs, non-quantitative and highly variable data obtained from current inspection programs often prove inadequate for making comprehensive, long-term life-cycle and bridge management decisions.

Smart StructuresAgainst this backdrop, it is heartening to know that Smart Structures is one company that makes use of embedded sensors for safe, accelerated and economical construction and maintenance of infrastructure. Originally developed by Florida Department of Transportation and University of Florida, the technology of Embedded Data Collectors, (specialized sensors embedded in foundations) was acquired by Smart Structures in 2003 and located, currently, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

What are Embedded Data Collectors?

Sensors embedded in foundations, such as concrete piles are called Embedded Data Collectors (EDC). Smart Structures solutions of Embedded Data Collectors are based on break-through technology of embedding sensors in concrete and wirelessly collect real-time data.
The sensor technology is designed to be cast directly into wet concrete and cured before the commencement of construction. By this process, Smart Structures dramatically altered the scope of foundation installation. The Embedded Data Collectors installed in deep foundations such as concrete piles can now provide capacity and integrity in real-time for safe, accelerated and economical construction. The era of SmartPile has started.

Innovations of instrumentation and analyses of a mature technology

Sensors’ embedment in wet concrete elements and use of the cured embedded concrete element in construction has been the history of Smart Structures for years.

EDC pile technology consists of the embedment of sensors at various levels in the pile as required, such as the top and tip of the concrete pile during casting. As the pile is driven into the ground the Bluetooth radio signals from the sensor pack are received wirelessly from the embedded instrumentation and are analyzed in “real time” with a laptop computer in the field. The data analysis methods continue to be updated have advanced and verified with field test measurements. Several publications are available for the benefit of the academicians and practitioners.

The nature of Embedded Data Collectors technology has replaced the old concept of instrumenting a few so called test foundations and based on this limited data, install all the remaining foundation units. Through Embedded Data Collectors technology, Smart Structures, popularized 100 percent testing of driven pile foundations and minimized uncertainties associated with probabilities of failure inherent in the nonhomogeneous materials and dynamic installation processes.

Short and long-term monitoring of selected infrastructure elements…

As detailed above, since sensors are embedded within the concrete elements during casting, these are at their most active state during construction, continuously monitoring strains, load capacity and integrity to ensure quality installation. On many projects, these sensor systems have been used to augment – and even replace –traditional approaches to construction quality inspection, resulting in much greater construction productivity.

The nature of sensor-embedment enables implementation of long-term monitoring quickly and cost effectively – without the time and expense associated with fitting sensors to a completed substructure or superstructure elements.
Since all data from the embedded sensors goes into Smart Structures cloud-based (Internet) Infrastructure Management System, long-term monitoring is simply a continuation of the data collection, analysis and monitoring that started from the moment each sensor was cast into concrete. Operational monitoring provides the data and insight needed to validate design, detect any settling or scour onset, thereby optimizes maintenance & repair, and respond to and quantitatively measure damage from extreme events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and man-made damage. Warranty can thus be implemented fairly for both the owner and the contractor.

Track and monitor the total life history of each infrastructure component

Building modern structures starts with quality materials and components. The above process could ensure track and monitor the total life history of each component – material properties, curing temperatures, geospatial data and project-specific information. Each sensor has a unique global ID, which enables a new level of material management and quality control & assurance.

Bright future for the Infrastructure industry

Through their work of embedding instrumentation, senior engineers, Dr. Putcha and Dr. Goly assert: “aside from creating safer structures in the community, we are creating economic benefits for designers and building contractors, and ultimately to the owners and the tax payers.”

While heavily investing in research and development and exploring into new markets, Smart Structures recognizes the benefits of its talented and diversified team. Dr. Putcha emphasizes “we thoroughly enjoy the relationships we have not only with the people that work here, but also with the partnerships we have established. Everyone involved is passionate about this technology.”

Smart Structures has gained a strong foothold in the transportation infrastructure market. Now the company sees opportunities to introduce Smart Structures initiatives into new markets: Offshore Infrastructure Industry, Water Management Districts, Port Administration projects and high-rise buildings, all building blocks of Smart Cities. “This technology offers mutual benefits for industry, local and state communities” says, Kumar Allady, president of Smart Structures.

“Our technology currently provides the real-time assessment of the infrastructure throughout its life cycle” says Dr. Goly. As Smart Structures develops new products and explores new markets the company remains a leader in innovation and education of embedding sensors under extremely volatile situations and monitoring under extreme vibrations. Truly, a paradigm shift achievement that deserves well-earned recognition.

Published on: February 1, 2016



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