For the past few years, Brett Story, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at SMU, and students at Garland High School have used the Briarwood Bridge in Garland as a testing ground. By gathering information collected by smartphones in passing cars, Story and the students aim to check the bridge’s structural health.
The information Story needs is collected by the smartphone’s accelerometer. An accelerometer is generally used to measure how quickly something is moving. Its inclusion in smartphones is to help determine the phone’s orientation. Smartphone sensors are sensitive enough, though, that they can also sense a bridge’s vibrations as we drive over it.