Up to their ARMs in concrete

Up to their ARMs in concrete

Technology News |
ARM Holdings plc is NOT about to enter the construction industry directly or start making and supplying sensors, contrary to reports from The Times and Daily Mail. But ARM technology is "set" to be deployed in a concrete sensing application.
By Jean-Pierre Joosting


The Times said that a scheme starting in London in April “will be the first in Britain to use sensors made by ARM, the Cambridge-based chip designer, attached to reinforced bars (sic) in the concrete.” These sensors are used to tell builders when the concrete has set (see ARM strengthens its hand by moving into the concrete jungle). The Daily Mail followed up by saying the technology could cut concrete pouring times by a fifth and save the construction industry millions of pounds.

A spokesperson for ARM confirmed that ARM is working with partners on a construction-site sensing project, but added that ARM is not going to be making or supplying sensors or microcontrollers to process the data. ARM’s business model remains unchanged, the licensing of intellectual property to chip developers, the spokesperson said, while declining to name the project partners.

The spokesperson confirmed that the system involves wires attached to reinforcing bars and these lead to an ARM-based unit that monitors these wires to determine when the concrete poured round those bars has set. At that point the wires are disconnected and left in the concrete and the equipment can be moved to the next pouring site. The spokesperson did not identify the sensing principle but one candidate sensor technology could be thermocouple temperature measurement as the hydration process of curing cement is exothermic.

As to potential partners for ARM in such a project there is a startup called Converge Ltd. founded by two physicists from the University of Cambridge, Raphael Scheps and Gideon Farrell, in 2014.

Converge states on its website that it provides hardware and software for the collection, storage, and analysis of sensor data and serves the medical and construction industries. The sites goes on to say that the Converge transmitter connects to any analog or digital sensor and converts it into a wireless, networked device. The transmitters can then create a mesh network over a variety of media, for example 433MHz to pass through concrete and steel.

The company mentions, as a real world example, attaching a transmitter to embedded thermocouples to report the maturity of a concrete pour in real-time. This has the benefit of indicating as soon as the form is ready to be struck. This eliminates delays caused by intermittent, manual measurements, Converge states. “On larger sites, this can save £50,000 per annum on man-power costs alone compared to manual measurement,” Converge claims.

ARM’s “mbed” community initiative provides support for developers of IoT applications and this includes guidelines for connectivity and security and approval of mbed-enabled PCBs from such companies as NXP, STMicroelectronics, Silicon Labs and Nordic.

Related links and articles:

ARM strengthens its hand by moving into the concrete jungle



News articles:

ARM upgrades mbed platform for IoT

ARM partners Nordic to develop BLE-enabled devices

Implementing an IoT end-point SoC platform

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