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Cyber-Physical System

30th August 2016

Cyber-Physical System or CPS is the latest development from the US which has caught our eye. The new technology combines sensors with 3D modelling to monitor and assess the structural reliability of scaffolding and other temporary structures.

The development is the brainchild of architectural engineering PhD student Xiao Yuan, from Penn State University. She has tested the technology in the lab using sensors on scaffolding structures and linking them to the virtual 3D models. If there is a problem with the structure or positioning this should be picked up and highlighted on the virtual model.

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The potential for the technology appears to be huge. The sensors can be left in situ to monitor the structure and communicate with the software at regular intervals which could be a frequent as every few seconds. It will be possible to set up alerts so that whoever needs to be notified, construction workers on-site, supervisors or site managers can receive alerts direct to their mobile phone if a problem with the scaffolding develops. This can happen in real-time and communicated to specific individuals wherever they are. For example a site manager could be made aware of a problem which occurs during the night due to adverse weather conditions while he or she is at home.

The technology is yet to be tested in the real world but so far lab tests have proved successful. Different scenarios have been created in the lab to simulate typical issues which could occur with scaffolding on-site including:

  • base settlement of scaffolding system
  • overloading
  • a severe displacement of scaffolding planks
  • a missing diagonal brace or one which is incorrectly positioned
  • damage to the scaffolding such as that caused by wind or after being hit by a vehicle.

Obviously once real-world testing has taken place there will be other factors to consider such as the feasibility, cost and time involved in set-up and installation of the equipment but the new technology certainly looks promising.

We will be taking a keen interest in the real world testing and are looking forward to hearing more news on the potential that the Cyber-Physical System might have to support improvements to health and safety standards in the scaffolding and construction sectors.