Since March 1, 2021, Kay Smarsly is professor and head of the new Institute for Digital and Autonomous Construction (IDAC) at Hamburg University of Technology. At HAMBURG INNOVATION PORT, he and his team are researching the buildings of the future.
The digital transformation is everywhere. This is not limited to voice-controlled televisions or self-driving cars. The construction of high-rise buildings can also be optimized through digitization. “Just a few years ago, it would have been considered impossible to print concrete. Now we can even build entire houses using 3D printing”, says Kay Smarsly.
Concrete control by walking robots
Smarsly’s research includes concrete printing, artificial intelligence (AI) and smart sensors used to monitor bridges, dams and high-rise buildings. He and his team are currently working on intelligent walking robots that can monitor buildings and communicate with each other. With the help of laser scanners and other sensors, they collect measurement data from buildings, which they then analyze independently using AI and forward to the connected computer systems. “The robots can independently find their way around the buildings and are somewhat reminiscent of roaming dogs”, explains the TU professor. As soon as they measure conspicuous features in the concrete during their inspection rounds, for example cracks, the responsible employees on the construction site are immediately notified digitally. This not only makes construction work easier, but also makes the buildings safer.
Environmental protection through sensors
Topics such as the environment are also part of Kay Smarsly’s research profile. The intelligent sensors he has developed can not only measure damage to buildings, but also pollutants in the soil. This means, among other things, that drinking water quality can be tested at any time and in any place in a cost-effective and easy-to-use manner. “We would like to use this technology in developing countries in the long term”, Smarsly says.
The versatility that his research area entails fascinates the TU researcher: “The digital transformation enables me to implement visionary ideas and work in an interdisciplinary way.” However, he never actually had a scientific career in mind during his civil engineering studies. He just let it come to him, he says: “‘Ett kütt wie et kütt’ – as they say in my homeland, the Rhineland.” Before joining TU Hamburg, Smarsly was a professor and chair at Bauhaus University in Weimar.
Photo: Prof. Kay Smarsly, Institute for Digital and Autonomous Construction