The 'smart city' is the wave of the future and there is a lot of interest in making it happen. However, you don't seem to hear as much about 'smart infrastructure', which is curious. Every house has a foundation, and infrastructure is the foundation of the city, so it stands to reason that you can't have a truly 'smart' city unless it is 'smart' all the way down to its foundation. Idencia is all about smart infrastructure so we thought we would share our vision.
Smart infrastructure will be made possible with the same core technology that will create smart cities... the internet of things (IoT).
IoT is best described as using the internet to create direct connections between objects much like social media is used to connect people. We see IoT enabled technologies already in the home. Nest, the internet connected thermostat, is a prime example. (Google purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion a few years ago, so there is obviously a lot of potential in IoT.)
Recent advances in communications technology have aligned with existing IoT technology to set the table for smart infrastructure. The major wireless telecom providers all started offering LTE Cat M1 cellular service within the last 12 months. This is a low-cost cellular service designed for low-power transmission of data. You could not stream a video with it, but it is ideally suited for streaming small bits of sensor data using batteries or solar as power source. Verizon and AT&T are targeting their Cat M1 services specifically to IoT applications.
How will smart infrastructure work? Concrete manufacturers will embed sensors to make smart panels and smart girders for use in bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure products. These battery- or solar-powered sensors will measure the structural health of the concrete over time. Accelerometers will record excessive vibration incidences; corrosion sensors will measure the degradation of concrete and rebar; and other sensors/tools can be affixed to record concrete strength. These sensors will communicate with a local Cat M1 modem that sends the information through the internet to a data collection platform (such as the Idencia Management Portal).
There are about 614,000 bridges in the US. At an average cost of $15,000 for a bridge inspection every two years, city and state departments of transportation are spending an estimated $4.6 billion each year to inspect bridges... just bridges. Smart bridges that stream structural health data will not eliminate inspections, but will reduce the need for inspections to those that indicate problems. This will create a profoundly positive impact for DOTs that are currently facing work force attrition from Baby Boomer retirements and shrinking operating budgets.
There are already smart bridges in existence. The University of New Hampshire has partnered with the NH DOT to outfit the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH with sensors. You can find an excellent video of the UNH Living Bridge here. If you would like to learn more about the Idencia vision, you can read our 2017 Smart Infrastructure Market Report.
Smart infrastructure is on its way and we look forward to helping our customers benefit from it.
Our purpose at Idencia is to offer precast tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the value chain. Our offering applies to products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn more, click below.