The Sept. 17 acquisition of a 30% share in a Danish technology company by a Canadian manufacturer of concrete admixtures and waterproofing materials may turn out to mark the leading edge of a sweeping change for concrete construction in North America.
Vancouver, B.C.-based Kryton International Inc.’s investment in Sensohive Technologies ApS, Odense, Denmark, makes Kryton the largest shareholder. Sensohive makes a sensor system for concrete pressure and maturity testing that uses ultra narrow-band, low-power radio transmitters to communicate with a growing network of internet-of-things receivers, which Sensohive uses to upload the data to its software interface in the cloud.
On the market for just a few months, Maturix, as the system is called, lets contractors and prestressed concrete manufacturers in Europe monitor conditions inside their maturing concrete, in real time, from any device with a browser. The technology represents concrete’s connection to the IoT. Kryton aims to introduce it to North America at the World of Concrete trade show in February.
Jacob Christensen, CEO of PASCHAL, a construction equipment supplier in Aarhus, Denmark, helped Sensohive develop the product after successfully working with it to devise a concrete pressure-monitoring system for use inside the formwork PASCHAL rents to contractors. “We started to work with Sensohive to create an online portal to measure the pressure in the concrete, and then we made a contract to help develop Maturix,” Christensen says.
Now PASCHAL rents out the devices in batches of three for €20 per day. “We started having them for rent three months ago after six or seven months of testing on a lot of different building sites,” Christensen says.
The reusable Maturix transmitter is housed in a weatherproof box with a plug for a standard, single-use thermocouple cable with temperature-sensing tip. The sensor is attached to rebar and embedded during casting. The cable is snipped off and abandoned after the concrete cures.
The transmitters report temperatures every few minutes. They upload data via the expanding Sigfox 0G network, which is designed to support the IoT. Sigfox is a French global network operator founded in 2009. It is building dedicated wireless networks to connect low-power objects —such as electricity meters and smartwatches—that need to be continuously emitting small amounts of data. Kryton claims Sigfox’s long-range, low-power-demand network should let Maturix batteries last for up to 10 years.
Sean Côté, Kryton’s executive for mergers and acquisitions, says he searched for the right concrete maturity technology for three years before settling on Maturix. “We knew this technology was scalable and cost effective. It is a nice marriage between older established technology such as a thermocouple, connected to a device that is modern, and Sigfox is a big part of it. They make it very easy,” he says.
Côté says Sigfox started building its network in Canada in April. Portable base station receivers are available to establish reception in areas not yet part of the network. Maps on the Sigfox website show its coverage, which already includes major metropolitan areas in the U.S.
Christensen says real-time, remote monitoring of curing concrete will take the guesswork out of timing sensitive procedures like stripping forms and post tensioning, plus add a measure of safety. He recounts how one of his customers was alerted to night winds stripping covers off part of a curing bridge deck by a drop in temperature reported to his desktop.
“It’s still in the beginning but it’s going fast now,” Christensen says. “It’s very easy to use.”