Smart Structures in the Construction Sector: Evolving into a Major Market Opportunity

The concept of smart structures (a.k.a intelligent structures) is hard to define. One definition has “smart structures” as “systems that incorporate particular functions of sensing and actuation to perform smart actions in an ‘intelligent’ way.” This provides an idea as to the kind of thing a smart structure is and also how broadly the concept can be applied.

But it doesn’t provide a firm grip on what the revenue generation capabilities of smart structures are outside the context of specific applications and end-user industries.  In theory, smart structures may be applied to a large number of end user industries and an even larger number of applications within these industries.

However, as a practical matter materials suppliers, electronics companies and OEMs are currently exploring two major industries where smart structures can become commercialized within a timeframe that might seriously interest investors and corporate managers. These two areas are the construction industry – our subject in this article — and the aerospace industry:

  • In the construction industry the intelligence that we are talking about with smart structures is somehow embedded into skin of a building or a bridge/tunnel in the form of smart materials or sensor of some kinds.  The smart structure market is not usually taken to include building monitoring and control equipment.
  • Smart structures in the aerospace industry is the topic of another n-tech report.

Evolution of Smart Structures in the Construction Industry

In the following table we sketch out the expected evolution of smart structures in the construction industry.  An analysis of the business cases made by firms targeting smart structures in the construction industry suggest that a lot of the money invested in the smart structures market at the present time is aimed at making buildings and bridges safer.  A secondary justification in users buying into smart structures is increasing energy efficiency.

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