Sensing a Change: Concrete Sensor Technology Gaining Acceptance as Contractors Look to the Future

Breaking concrete cylinders to test the compressive strength of concrete is standard practice for a reason. It’s relatively simple, cheap and when done right, accurately reflects strength. At the same time, break tests have changed little for decades and this lack of innovation is catching up with the commonplace method.

Propelled by lower cost electronic components and improved connectivity, a new wave of wireless sensors, capable of delivering the same metrics as break tests — but doing so in real-time — is carving out an increasing share of the market.

Not needing a technician to collect field-test cylinders and lug them to the lab is just one small part of the value proposition, says Aali Alizadeh, co-founder, president and CTO of Ottawa-based Giatec Scientific Inc. The company first introduced its SmartRock sensor five years ago and the tiny wireless devices are now encased in concrete on more than 6,000 job sites worldwide.

“Things have not changed in a long time and the new generation of engineers are demanding technology,” Alizadeh says, adding that once concrete crews try out the sensors, there’s no going back. “‘Why have I been breaking cylinders throughout my career?’” he says, is a question he has heard over and over.  

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