Case Study: Fractal Technologies Improves Safety of Bridges & Buildings with Wireless Structural Health Monitoring System
For over 18 years, Germany-based Fractal Technologies has provided services and sophisticated products that are integrated in complex automotive environments throughout Germany and Europe. The company specializes in product development and management, engineering, prototype development, R&D consulting, and production localization.
"Laird Connectivity was the best choice for our LoRaWAN application. Their cross-technology expertise, integration support, and smartBASIC programming language helped us get up and running quickly."
- DR.- ING. THOMAS REUL
PRESIDENT OF FRACTAL TECHNOLOGIES
Structural monitoring devices from Fractal Technologies are well-established, successful products in their industry, but they’re not alone. Recent developments in sensor technology have opened new doors in remote monitoring, allowing Cloud processing and long-range wireless to add valuable IoT intelligence in the structural health monitoring industry.
To further their competitive advantage, Fractal Technologies wanted to enable wireless monitoring on buildings, bridges, and other manmade structures in real time for miles around.They needed a business partner with a broad array of wireless expertise to help them develop a sophisticated monitoring network, providing their customers with actionable intelligence to enable just-in-time maintenance and prevent disasters.
Fractal Technologies created a structural health monitoring system powered by our line of LoRaWAN modules and gateways. LoRaWAN allows devices to transmit infrequent status-type messages for years powered by a rechargeable battery and a solar cell panel, over a span of miles.
Fractal’s existing structural sensors, such as those designed to measure force and movement, were connected to a custom-designed LoRaWAN node unit based on our RM1xx LoRaWAN + Bluetooth module. The nodes (Fractal Nano Node and Midi Node) support either four or eight wired sensor connections. This allowed Fractal to leverage their existing hardware into a new, modernized wireless application, adding greater value to products already in the field.
The Nano and Midi Node use smartBASIC onboard our RM1xx module’s embedded microcontroller. A smartBASIC application continuously reads sensor signals and sends the sensor information from the structure site to a gateway at the monitoring site.
RG1xx LoRaWAN Gateway
Fractal’s customers can then leverage Laird Connectivity’s RG1xx LoRaWAN Gateway series, which provides options for indoor and outdoor applications. For example, in an outdoor application, the IP67-certified version of the RG1xx gateway can be mounted permanently outside and is certified for environmental protection from the elements. Fractal Technologies used the RG1xx gateway as a platform, customizing their own LoRaWAN server and gateway firmware to create their uniquely capable solution.
The gateway, sensors, sensor measuring nodes, and cloud server are all provided by Fractal Technologies, meaning customers can rely on one comprehensive provider for a complete structural monitoring solution. Structure information is gathered, plotted against a map, coded, and made easy to interpret by ranking data based on safety criteria. Healthy structures are shown in green, while dangerous structures are shown in red. This entire end-to-end solution provides valuable insights at a glance.
The Laird Connectivity advantage is clear. Fractal now provides for its customers an incomparable long-range smart structural monitoring system. Using cloud monitoring, Fractal’s customers can gain insight into the status of their structures and receive updates when things change. Emergencies can be detected early and trigger notifications for managers and maintenance personnel.
The practical reality in structural monitoring is that an increasingly smaller number of inspectors are traveling around and analyzing structures in person. Rather than rely on in-person inspections a few times a year, Fractal Technologies enables a next-level approach. Regular monitoring data is constantly being gathered and analyzed every day of the year.
All of this adds up to one huge advantage: getting ahead of disastrous events and major malfunctions to safeguard human lives and limit casualties. Cloud processing makes it easier than ever to collect this data and visualize the big picture, for new insight and rapid response. Early detection of structural problems means preventing an incident before it starts, saving property and lives in the process.
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Cloud processing makes it easier than ever to collect this data and visualize the big picture, for new insight and rapid response. Early detection of structural problems means preventing an incident before it starts, saving property and lives in the process.