Synchronized sensing for wireless monitoring of large structures

Robin E. Kim, Jian Li, Billie F. Spencer, Tomonori Nagayama, Kirill A. Mechitov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advances in low-cost wireless sensing have made instrumentation of large civil infrastructure systems with dense arrays of wireless sensors possible. A critical issue with regard to effective use of the information harvested from these sensors is synchronized sensing. Although a number of synchronization methods have been developed, most provide only clock synchronization. Synchronized sensing requires not only clock synchronization among wireless nodes, but also synchronization of the data. Existing synchronization protocols are generally limited to networks of modest size in which all sensor nodes are within a limited distance from a central base station. The scale of civil infrastructure is often too large to be covered by a single wireless sensor network. Multiple independent networks have been installed, and post-facto synchronization schemes have been developed and applied with some success. In this paper, we present a new approach to achieving synchronized sensing among multiple networks using the Pulse-Per-Second signals from low-cost GPS receivers. The method is implemented and verified on the Imote2 sensor platform using TinyOS to achieve 50 μs synchronization accuracy of the measured data for multiple networks. These results demonstrate that the proposed approach is highly-scalable, realizing precise synchronized sensing that is necessary for effective structural health monitoring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-909
Number of pages25
JournalSmart Structures and Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2016


  • Full-scale railroad bridge implementation
  • Low-cost GPS receiver
  • Multiple networks
  • PPS signal
  • Synchronized sensing
  • Wireless smart sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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