"Smart" sensors with embedded microprocessors and wireless communication links have the potential to change fundamentally the way civil infrastructure systems are monitored and maintained. Indeed, a 2002 National Research Council report noted that the use of networked systems of embedded computers and sensors throughout society could well dwarf all previous milestones in the information revolution. However, a framework does not yet exist that can allow the distributed computing paradigm offered by smart sensors to be employed for structural health monitoring; current algorithms assume that all data is centrally collected and processed. Such an approach does not scale to systems with densely instrumented arrays of sensors that will be required for the next generation of structural health monitoring and control systems. This paper provides a brief introduction to smart sensing technology and identifies some of the opportunities and associated challenges.