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Analysis of real-time vibration data

January 1, 2005

In recent years, a few structures have been instrumented to provide continuous vibration data in real time, recording not only large-amplitude motions generated by extreme loads, but also small-amplitude motions generated by ambient loads. The main objective in continuous recording is to track any changes in structural characteristics, and to detect damage after an extreme event, such as an earthquake or explosion. The Fourier-based spectral analysis methods have been the primary tool to analyze vibration data from structures. In general, such methods do not work well for real-time data, because real-time data are mainly composed of ambient vibrations with very low amplitudes and signal-to-noise ratios. The long duration, linearity, and the stationarity of ambient data, however, allow us to utilize statistical signal processing tools, which can compensate for the adverse effects of low amplitudes and high noise. The analysis of real-time data requires tools and techniques that can be applied in real-time; i.e., data are processed and analyzed while being acquired. This paper presents some of the basic tools and techniques for processing and analyzing real-time vibration data. The topics discussed include utilization of running time windows, tracking mean and mean-square values, filtering, system identification, and damage detection.