Design and Testing of a Low-Power Wireless Sensor Network for Structural Health Monitoring of Bridges


This paper describes the design and testing of a wireless sensor network based on the SmartBrick, a low-power SHM device developed by the authors. The SmartBrick serves as the base station for the network, which utilizes additional sensor nodes to periodically evaluate the condition of the structure. Each node measures vibration, tilt, humidity, and strain, and is designed for easy interfacing of virtually any other analog or digital sensor. The sensor nodes use Zigbee to transmit their data to the base station, which in turn uses the GSM cellular phone network to provide long-range communication and support for remote control. The system has been designed from the outset to minimize power consumption, and is projected to operate autonomously for up to four years without any on-site maintenance, due largely to the minimal power consumption and rugged design. Remote calibration over the GSM network further increases the autonomy of the system. Most importantly, it can perform all requisite actions with no cables for power or communication. The focus of this paper is the addition of short-range wireless communication over Zigbee. This allows a network of several devices to be used to monitor larger structures, such as multi-span bridges. Results of laboratory testing are included and discussed in detail, demonstrating the unique capabilities of the proposed SHM system.

Meeting Name

Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems (2009: Mar. 9-12, San Diego, CA)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Cellular Phone Networks; Digital Sensors; GSM Networks; Laboratory Testing; Long-Range Communications; Low Power; Minimal Power; Multi-Span Bridges; Power Consumption; Remote Calibration; Short-Range Wireless Communications; Structural Health; Wireless; Zig-Bee; Base Stations; Bridges; Concrete Bridges; Design; Health; Sensor Networks; Sensor Nodes; Telecommunication Equipment; Telephone Circuits; Wireless Telecommunication Systems; Structural Health Monitoring; Sensors; Wireless; Zigbee

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International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2009 SPIE, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2009