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International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 560161, 17 pages
Research Article

Feasibility of Output-Only Modal Identification Using Wireless Sensor Network: A Quantitative Field Experimental Study

1Department of Civil Engineering, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, China
2Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong
3Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
4School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

Received 2 August 2012; Accepted 27 September 2012

Academic Editor: Ting-Hua Yi

Copyright © 2012 Wen-ai Shen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although significant advancements have been achieved in wireless sensor network (WSN) in the past decades, there is still a strong need for in-depth analysis on wireless time synchronization and data quality during field testing. In this paper, an academic WSN is adopted for output-only modal identification of two full-scale bridges in Xiamen, China. This paper first assesses the accuracy of time synchronization performed by the WSN through a centralized beacon signal and then studies wireless data quality using two quantitative performance indexes. The relationship between vibration amplitude and quality of wireless sensor data is investigated. With ambient bridge accelerations acquired by wireless sensing units, modal properties of the two bridges are identified using the stochastic subspace identification (SSI) method and the enhanced frequency domain decomposition (EFDD) method. Accuracies of the modal identification results are evaluated through comparison with modal properties identified from tethered sensing data. The comparison shows close match in natural frequencies and mode shapes, although relatively large difference in damping ratios exists between results from wireless and tethered sensing data. An overall close match between the wireless and tethered results demonstrates the feasibility of using WSN for the ambient vibration testing of full-scale bridges.