Open Systems Laboratory at Illinois

Synchronized sensing for wireless monitoring of large structures

By Robin E. Kim, Jian Li, B.F. Spencer, Tomonori Nagayama, and Kirill A. Mechitov. Smart Structures and Systems, 18:885–909, 2016.

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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.


    author = "Kim, Robin E. and Li, Jian and Spencer, B.F. and
              Nagayama, Tomonori and Mechitov, Kirill A.",
    title = "Synchronized sensing for wireless monitoring of large
    issue = "5",
    journal = "Smart Structures and Systems",
    pages = "885-909",
    url = "
    volume = "18",
    year = "2016",