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Cyber-concrete gives walls a voice

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Technology makes for strange bedfellows: that's the lesson to be learnt from the partnership of YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory with the Sumitomo Osaka Cement company. The two groups have developed what they call "cyber-concrete," which is basically a lumpy soup of regular cement and RFID tags with durable coatings. The tags hold basic information about when, where, and how each part of the concrete was manufactured, allowing safety inspection teams and concerned residents alike to check how stable their building is. To aid this process, the researchers have developed a special reader that can convert this information into speech when placed on a correctly tagged wall -- so much for "the walls have ears," now they eat pollution, display images, and speak. Sumitomo is to start testing the RFID concrete soup this month, and is aiming to make it available to large construction companies in the spring of 2007. What with a recent scandal rocking the Japanese construction scene, it sounds as if this clever concrete can't come soon enough. Just as long as it's not too clever -- lets just say that we know we're bad at darts, and that we don't need no screaming walls to tell us.

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