I love looking back to see how things have converged together to create a different present day. Step back just five years ago and how we lived our daily life was slightly different. Step back ten years, and it was much different. However the fun part is always looking at the things happening today and trying to envision (and then create) a different future. After all, to be viewed as a market leader, one must lead.
Historically we have seen our geosynthetic products as performing specific functions, whether it be separation, reinforcement or containment. Some of the more versatile products can perform several functions.
For the future, our vision is to take our “dumb products” and turn them into “smart geosynthetics” using the inherent properties of graphene. That is, move from products that perform a function (or functions) and allow them to also act as a sensor to collect data.
Sensor technology embedded into geosynthetics could be used to measure and report on many parameters within critical infrastructure such as pressure, strain, temperature and moisture. This data could be used in many ways by asset owners and managers to guide maintenance activities and critical repairs.
For example, sensors could be embedded into rail geosynthetics to provide live monitoring of deflections. Sensors could also be embedded into tailings dams to measure pressure on dam walls and indicate when intervention is required to prevent failures. The possibilities are endless.
We see technology converging today which will allow us to bring our vision to life, by combining the sensor capability of graphene with the IT trends of cloud, big data, mobile and the Internet of Things. By using graphene to turn our products into sensors and connecting our products to clients via IT tools and systems, we bring new capability in our geosynthetic products.
We see the launch of our bidim C Range conductive geotextile for leak detection (the world’s largest use of graphene) as the first step towards commercial availability of smart geosynthetics.
I’m often asked “what problems do clients have that sensors could solve?”, on one hand, this is easy, we just need to step into their office or onto their site and ask them this question. On the other hand, trying to monetise a solution is never that simple.
We believe there is value in collecting data from infrastructure. It is the topic that gets the most interest from my customer visits. And customer interest is rarely wrong.