Cloud Box

Sensors in lorries that make sure concrete is delivered on time and with minimal waste.

Last updated: 2nd November 2021

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Liam Winder
Project number: 105867
UKRI funding: £175,746

Website:
cloudcycle.com/


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Summary

Wasted concrete is one of the most pressing challenges for the construction sector because of its contribution to carbon emissions. Cloud Cycle has blended sensor technology with machine learning to create the Cloud Box - a cost effective solution to automate the flow of concrete across sites. Installed within trucks, the Cloud Box can measure the quality and conditions of the wet-concrete and how long there is left to use it. By optimising the processes around concrete deliveries, Cloud Box means there are fewer failed quality tests and less concrete ends up going to landfill. Anything left over is resold on a digital marketplace to other local suppliers. Cloud Cycle has proven the concept works on HS2, secured follow-on funding and is now integrated it with other digital systems.

Innovation type: Digital
Organisation type: Construction tier 1 contractors, Innovative SME

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Project pioneers

Cloud Cycle is a micro business that is revolutionising the ready mix concrete industry by digitising it.

The problem

Concrete is the single biggest contributor to the construction industry's overall carbon emissions, which is exacerbated by wasteful use of the material onsite. It is estimated that 5% of a project’s concrete will be wasted. This is because there is a small, optimum window of time for concrete to arrive onsite before it can be used, and this can be a difficult process to get right. It often involves manual planning that can be inaccurate, leading to either too much or too little concrete arriving at incorrect times. Monitoring the quality of the concrete itself is also a very precise and time-consuming process that can be prone to error and lead to further wastage.

Vision

Cloud Cycle has developed a solution that combines digital sensor technology in wet concrete trucks with analytics to calculate the real-time quality and volume of the wet concrete and, importantly, the time remaining before the wet concrete load sets. These insights help concrete companies manage their wet concrete loads more efficiently - minimising movement and optimising every aspect of the process to reduce waste. Whatever is surplus from the original production site or supplier can then be redistributed to buyers through an online platform. Optimising concrete use in this way will reduce the amount of surplus concrete sent to landfill. It can also reduce water waste and embedded carbon across the sector.

Key Insight

Knowing that on average construction projects waste 5% of its concrete, when scaled this has a huge impact on the industry's carbon emissions. Cloud Cycle knew that better data and sensor technology could address this but it needed a proof of concept to trial its solution - the Cloud Box - and understand its potential.

First step

The Transforming Construction Challenge funded the proof of concept and connected Cloud Cycle to Sustainable Ventures, one of the UK's major Cleantech investors. Using Cloud Cycle and Sustainable Ventures’ industry connections, they secured two pilot organisations to work with which led to the Cloud Box being trialled in 22 Cemex trucks and 68 HS2 installations. The data from these trials would help Cloud Cycle prove the value of its innovation with influential companies in the sector.

Barrier

For the industry to adopt Cloud Box at scale, Cloud Cycle needed to prove the technology is reliable, and how it can save them money and reduce waste. This data would give the construction sector the evidence it needed to move away from previously time-consuming, manual processes.

Digital Innovation

The product works by combining the latest generation sensor technology with data analytics to deliver real time insights on wet concrete loads. Digital sensors are housed within the Cloud Box and the box is installed within the wet-concrete trucks. Because it is compatible with all trucks and is easy to fit, the installation itself is simple and low-cost. Considering where it is installed, the box also needs to be very durable and water resistant. The data from the sensors in the trucks is combined with deep learning and machine learning technology to provide real time insights on the quality and status of the wet-concrete and the time left to use it. The data from the sensors and analytics is then pushed through to a real-time dashboard, visualising all the information from trucks, routes, plants or sites - either through a large screen at the dispatch centre or via a table or mobile app for plant and site managers. The impact of this data integration means that Cloud Box can not only alert teams to the status of the wet-concrete, but help reduce the number of failed tests by making recommendations on how to maintain the quality of the material. The Cloud Box can suggest interventions such as adding water to keep the concrete within specification, or advise when surplus wet concrete should be reused or resold on a digital marketplace. All of this will decrease costs to suppliers and reduce waste sent to landfill, thereby reducing carbon impact.  As part of the trials, the team compared Cloud Box to Socotec which checks batches of trucks arriving, their quality and the time saved. Cloud Cycle was able to prove that its technology optimises the current manual, time-consuming processes; it reduces the risk of bringing concrete to site that won’t be used; and it allows for redistribution planning so unwanted concrete on one site can quickly be used elsewhere. Cloud Cycle's digital marketplace for local on-sale of surplus concrete will find a buyer for any unused concrete, further incentivising companies to be forward thinking in terms of waste concrete.

Collaborators

The project was led by Cloud Cycle in partnership with Sustainable Venures. Transforming Construction also connected Cloud Cycle with EHAB to learn about its Weather Ledger which combines sensor technology with hyper-local, real-time weather data.

  • Cloud Cycle
  • EHAB
  • HS2
  • Sustainable Ventures

Lead support

In addition to the Transforming Construction funding, Sustainable Ventures supported Cloud Cycle with investment and connections to HS2 to carry out their trials. HS2 provided £250,000 match-funding for a total project cost of around £835,000.

Long Term Vision

Cloud Cycle is using digital technology to solve one of the biggest areas of waste in construction and reduce the huge impact that concrete has on the sector's combined carbon emissions. Through real time data capture through sensors and digital analytics and machine learning, the Cloud Box has the potential to markedly reduce concrete wastage and even, when integrated with BIM, allow designers and engineers to design-out concrete wastage.

Human Stories

This tiny startup has developed at a phenomenal rate. It is a great example of a SME working with investors and large-scale contractors to accelerate adoption of digital innovation and build a body of evidence that can bring more of the industry with them. The innovation as well as reducing waste, has the potential to save valuable time for workers onsite by removing many of the manual process involved in concrete quality control and transportation.

Powerful Processes

The product works by combining the latest generation sensor technology with data analytics to deliver real time insights on wet concrete loads. Digital sensors in the Cloud Box can assess the quality and status of the wet-concrete and the time left to use it. This is then pushed through to a real-time dashboard, visualising all the information from trucks, routes, plants or sites. The impact of this data integration means that Cloud Box can not only alert teams to the status of the wet-concrete, but help reduce the number of failed tests by making recommendations how to maintain the quality of the material. It can suggest interventions or advise when surplus wet concrete should be reused or resold on a digital marketplace.

Fascinating Facts

It is estimated that 5% of a project’s concrete will be wasted. HS2 provided £250,000 match-funding for a total project cost of around £835,000. The project has been able to secure £1.5m in private investment in 2020. Based on the HS2 trials, Cloud Cycle has been able to forecast industry waste reduction of 760,0000 tonnes, which would reduce carbon emissions by a forecasted 228,000 tonnes and a forecasted reduction in water usage by 47 million litres.

Benefits

Emissions
Optimising concrete use in this way minimises waste and reduces the amount of surplus concrete sent to landfill. It can also reduce water waste and embedded carbon. Based on the HS2 trials, Cloud Cycle has been able to forecast industry waste reduction of 760,0000 tonnes, which would reduce carbon emissions by a forecasted 228,000 tonnes and a forecasted reduction in water usage by 47 million litres. Further developments by Cloud Cycle will integrate the data and insights into BIM, to enable digitisation of as-built drawings. It will then be able to instruct design engineers on the types of design that create more waste concrete than expected, and recommend how much concrete to order depending on the design to avoid any over ordering, effectively designing out waste. 

Investment
The project has been able to secure £1.5m in private investment in 2020.