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Rapidly Advancing Technology Towards Smarter Infrastructure and Safer People

Civil and environmental infrastructure systems are aging and subjected to increasing demands. Given the vast existing infrastructure and growing need for additional infrastructure, civil engineers can benefit from rapidly advancing technologies and analysis techniques. As an example, bridges serve as critical links that simultaneously affect multiple infrastructure systems. Traffic volumes and vehicle weights continue to increase as many bridges begin to approach their intended design lives. As with many categories of infrastructure, bridge integrity and safety for service should be evaluated regularly. Bridges may experience damage or impairment under extreme events, and, even under typical operations, bridge components can deteriorate and wear over time. Traditional bridge inspections and evaluation methods typically include visual inspections which can be time and labor intensive and can disrupt service. Technological advances in sensing modalities coupled with novel and widespread computational capabilities have created opportunities for advancements in bridge condition monitoring and evaluation.

Two case studies are presented that highlight developing and established practices in smart bridge infrastructure monitoring: (1) a vehicle-based, crowdsourced sensing framework for bridge assessment and (2) a machine learning application to bridge strike characterization. Results and implications specific to these studies are evaluated and connective themes are identified that illustrate exciting potential and inevitable challenges in infrastructure monitoring. In response to these implications, new education and training curricula are briefly discussed. In order to continue raising and sustaining our ASCE Report Card grades, we must maintain individual domain-specific technical expertise and leverage exciting new technologies when appropriate.



Brett Story Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Southern Methodist University


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