Scour was responsible for most of the U.S. bridges that collapsed during the past 40 years. The maximum scour depth is the most critical parameter in bridge design and maintenance. Due to scouring and refilling of river-bed deposits, existing technologies face a challenge in measuring the maximum scour depth during a strong flood. In this study, a new methodology is proposed for real time scour monitoring of bridges. Smart Rocks with embedded electronics are deployed around the foundation of a bridge as field agents. With wireless communications, these sensors can send their position change information to a nearby mobile station. This paper is focused on the design, characterization, and performance validation of active sensors. The active sensors use 3-axis accelerometers/magnetometers with a magneto-inductive communication system. In addition, each sensor includes an ID, a timer, and a battery level indicator. A Smart Rock system enables the monitoring of the most critical scour condition and time by logging and analyzing sliding, rolling, tilting, and heading of the spatially distributed sensors.

Meeting Name

SPIE Conference on Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems (2013: Mar. 10-14, San Diego, CA)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Second Department

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Active Sensors; Scour Monitoring; Smart Rock; Underwater Communication; 3-Axis Accelerometer; Embedded Electronics; Performance Validation; Spatially Distributed Sensors; Wireless Communications; Bridges; Magnetos; Wireless Telecommunication Systems

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version

Accepted Manuscript

File Type





© 2013 SPIE, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2013