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An Intelligent Wireless Structural Health Monitoring Solution



Upon arriving at an incident site in the wake of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, structures specialists from FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) program are tasked with ensuring the structural stability of partially collapsed buildings. Successful building stabilization limits the risk to first responders as they strive to find and remove trapped victims, so it is vitally important that these specialists know immediately when changes occur within a structural system. To enhance the effectiveness of current search and rescue methods while offering first responders a safer operational environment, low-cost wireless sensors can be used to provide real-time structural health monitoring (SHM) data that speaks to the current condition and stability of a partially collapsed structure. In this paper, a new wireless solution is proposed for US&R’s structural specialists. The architectural design of this wireless system is decomposed into two functional layers. The first layer consists of ultra low-power wireless sensors and is used to physically sense the behavior of the monitored structure and track the location of any first responders working within. The second layer contains more sophisticated wireless nodes that make automated decisions about the health of the damaged structure and relay this information to the relevant decision makers. The resulting system represents a low-cost, low-power, easy to deploy SHM solution for US&R. In addition to supporting an array of application-specific sensing transducers, this system transmits processed SHM information directly to trained structures specialists. Additionally, this system integrates an energy-aware multi-hop forwarding mechanism to maximize the lifetime of the monitoring system as a whole and utilizes routing and information coding techniques that are robust to node and/or communication failures, sudden changes in device position or configuration, etc.

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