22. 04. 2024

5 min

Author: Ondrej Kútik

Building next-generation GNSS solutions for structural health monitoring

Discover how cutting-edge GNSS technologies, managed infrastructure services, and custom software development come together to transform structural health monitoring.


As some of the most dynamic environments for human activities, the safety of buildings directly impacts people’s lives and property. Factors like overload and natural disasters pose serious risks to structural integrity, hence the need for a proactive approach to structural monitoring (SHM). GNSS-based technologies have become an indispensable part of that endeavour.

GNSS-based deformation monitoring outperforms traditional methods with real-time and long-term tracking without the need for direct visibility between points. It’s also largely unaffected by weather conditions, and ensures high precision and dynamic monitoring capabilities. Such applications have proven themselves vital in large-scale construction projects, such as dams, bridges, airports, stadiums, and offshore platforms.

Elevating precision with high-rate GNSS

GNSS-based precise point positioning (PPP) is capable of measuring positions at centimetre-level accuracy. However, most PPP systems currently rely only on GNSS data, which means they can’t provide precise displacement information continuously and in real time. High-rate GNSS systems are designed to overcome these limitations by operating up to 100 Hz, which is essential for monitoring dynamic structures, such as bridges. By using high-rate GNSS, engineers and researchers can detect even minute millimetre-level changes in structures to gain insights into the integrity and safety of various constructions.

Custom software development is pivotal in optimising the performance of such systems. By building tailored software, solution providers can ensure that GNSS data is more readily available and processed more accurately, thus better meeting the specific needs of each project. Not only does this improve the precision of SHM solutions; it also supports the integration of specialised data sources. For example, combining data from other sensor inputs, such as accelerators, strain gauges, tiltmeters, or anemometers, can offer a more holistic view of structural health beyond what GNSS data alone can provide.

Developing custom software solutions is, of course, just the first step. Such software must also be proactively maintained and hosted in a highly reliable infrastructure to ensure its continued value. By overseeing the technical and operational aspects, these services guarantee GNSS and sensor data is accurately captured, processed, and available in real-time or for the post-processing analysis. This ensures uninterrupted monitoring and enables faster decision-making when it comes to maintaining structural safety and integrity.

SHM solutions might also monitor structural health thanks to integration with data from sensors monitoring factors like battery level and data connectivity. More advanced solutions can also support planned maintenance by maintaining audit trails of sensor age and health. That way, it’s possible to take preventative action by replacing or updating a sensor before there’s a high risk of their failing. Once again, a custom-built software platform can embed such integrations without the need for potentially inefficient, unreliable, or convoluted workarounds.

Ensuring structural stability with RTK

Real-time kinematics (RTK) provides high-precision location data by correcting GNSS signals to pinpoint a receiver’s location to sub-centimetres horizontally, and few centimetres vertically in real time. This is vital in a range of use cases, such as monitoring the structural health and alignment of railways, ensuring the stability of large dams, or assessing landslide risk by detecting minor ground movements.

Custom-built software solutions can significantly augment the capabilities of RTK systems by refining the way data is processed and presented. For example, tailored algorithms can filter out noise, better interpret minute changes, and present actionable insights that are crucial in the early detection of potential structural failures. This bespoke approach allows for adaptive monitoring strategies, in which software-based solutions can dynamically adjust parameters in response to environmental changes.

Integrating 3D area maps can further enhance SHM applications by providing a more comprehensive understanding of structural conditions, as well as how they evolve over time. By combining these 3D models with RTK-based positions, engineers and researchers can carry out precise spatial analyses and visualize structural deformations in real time. Such an integration offers a vivid depiction of potential risk areas to facilitate targeted monitoring and intervention. 

As is the case with any SHM solution, it’s also vital that the infrastructure used to manage and host it offers high system throughput and performance, reliability through redundancy, and the seamless interoperability between data sources. Such a framework is essential in achieving a precise and continuous service which, in turn, is vital for detecting issues rapidly and enabling swift action.  

Navmatix works with organisations serving the construction industry to develop high-precision GNSS-based solutions and dependable managed services. Get in touch to find out more.

Written by:
Ondrej Kútik Chief Technology Officer at Navmatix

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