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Inside Innovation: HeidelbergCement investment in Giatec affirms Canadian concrete technology

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: HeidelbergCement investment in Giatec affirms Canadian concrete technology

Ottawa-based Giatec Scientific Inc. announced earlier this month that global building material giant HeidelbergCement has taken a minority equity position in the company.

Giatec is the developer and manufacturer of in-concrete testing technology and devices and another Canadian success story in the global concrete industry.

Through its continued research, Giatec has developed breakthrough technologies leveraging AI and Internet of Things. That’s resulted in a line of wireless concrete sensors, mobile apps and advanced non-destructive testing technologies that drive innovation throughout concrete’s lifecycle and reduce concrete’s carbon footprint. 

The company has received funding in recent years from foundations such as Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program to bring the concrete industry forwards towards carbon neutrality.

Its new partner, HeidelbergCement, is a multinational building material company headquartered in Germany, with annual revenue of over $25 billion, and more than 51,000 employees covering over 3,000 locations in 50 countries.

“This strategic partnership will propel Giatec’s expansion to international markets with the HeidelbergCement global reach and on-the-ground operations in over 50 countries,” Giatec CEO and co-founder, Pouria Ghods said in a news release. “We are confident that together we are going to revolutionize the concrete industry and develop best-in-class software solutions for all concrete producers worldwide.”

Giatec Scientific Inc. was formed in 2011 by Ghods and his friend, Aali Alizadeh, both PhD graduates in civil engineering specializing in concrete. After arranging research and funding, Giatec launched the first truly wireless real-time temperature and strength monitoring sensor in 2015 that ultimately led to its globally recognized range of SmartRock Sensors. These are now used in thousands of projects in over 45 countries.

In 2020, the company announced the redesign of its dual-temperature sensor SmartRock 3, enabling users to measure temperature values at two locations simultaneously. SmartRock 3 provides precise readings of temperature differentials in mass pours at the surface and centre of the slab, which can vary based on several factors. The company explains this function allows users to easily monitor temperature differentials between the concrete’s core and surface for mass pour applications.

Monitoring concrete curing and hardening is a critical part of the construction process. Typically, a comprehensive thermal control plan is developed outlining the temperature monitoring procedures that general contractors and their concrete subcontractors should follow under different temperature scenarios. The objective is to help schedules run smoothly without delays to the next stages of construction.

Over time, this has led to the development of onsite devices and methodologies that can measure concrete strength in real time rather than estimations or lab tests. Ultimately, the choice of monitoring system depends on project type and budget. Contractors can choose from relatively inexpensive thermocouples consisting of wires made from different metals that form an electrical circuit, to systems such as complete circuit boards embedded into the concrete at regular intervals which then transmit information to an external device.

Although initially more expensive, Giatec’s technology takes concrete monitoring to another level by using embedded sensors that transmit information to a phone or tablet at a range of up to 40 feet. This real-time data results in faster, safer and more economical concrete construction, potentially reducing concrete usage by up to 20 per cent. Adding Giatec’s SmartHub monitoring allows access to concrete data at any time from any location.

“The frequency and amount of time you take to record concrete temperature on any project is exhausting,” the company says. “You want an easy way to report on the maximum, minimum and temperature differential of your placed concrete without relying on painstakingly wired systems and data loggers.”

“HeidelbergCement’s strategic investment in Giatec is inspired by the shared vision of moving the concrete industry forward, with using cutting-edge sensing technologies, expanding digitalization and reducing the concrete carbon footprint,” said Dennis Lentz, chief digital officer at HeidelbergCement. “Giatec’s unrivaled combination of proprietary sensor technology and AI-based software enables significant efficiency and sustainability improvements from the plant to the jobsite.”

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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