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RFID Will Make Buildings Smart
Low-cost, battery-free sensors can be embedded in buildings to provide feedback on the state of those structures.
Feb 14, 2016—
When my son was heading off to study engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, outside of Boston, I suggested he look at areas that would likely become more important during his lifetime and, therefore, provide strong career opportunities. One example I gave him was smart buildings.
Buildings have been getting smarter in terms of energy efficiency. There are buildings that can provide all their own energy via solar panels, and all the water for toilets via rainwater collection systems. But when it comes to the buildings themselves, they remain as dumb as ever.
Also at last year's LIVE! event, Phase IV Engineering introduced a passive strain sensor that can detect the strain on rebar embedded in concrete. These sensors are being embedded in Seattle's Northgate Link Extension light-rail tunnel to help monitor structural integrity during construction (see Contractors Use RFID Sensors to Measure Strain in Seattle Rail Tunnels). The sensors have batteries, enabling them to log readings and store the collected data over time, but they can also work without batteries. So long after the batteries die, workers will be able to read the tags and ascertain the current level of strain on the rebar inside the tunnel walls.
It's likely that buildings in earthquake zones will one day be built with strain sensors. That way, in the event of a tremor, engineers could quickly—and safely—gather information regarding a building's structural integrity.
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