January 2011 » Departments

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SHM jargon
The recent article, “New civionics technologies for structural health monitoring,” shares valuable new information about the evolving science of structural health monitoring (SHM). I question, however, whether the use of the term “civionics” was equally valuable.

The author, Nathan Yang, defines the term as “the synergistic combination of civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, photonics, and other disciplines for SHM.” This definition suggests that civionics is an equivalent term for SHM, a field that already encompasses a variety of disciplines. Indeed, electrical and computer engineering and other disciplines are already integrated into the practice of civil engineering. In this case, the use of the term civionics adds a word of questionable value in a field already cluttered with jargon.

A similar concern has been raised by a commentator on a Google Talk page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACivionics) who opines, “All of the references describe it as an emerging field, yet they seem to point in a circular manner as to establishing the notability of this term. Wikipedia is not a place to establish notability. So if this term is not widely used in the engineering field, it should not have an article here.” I submit that an oblique reference in CE News is not the place to establish notability, either.
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI
Chusid Associates

In recent years, the term “SHM” has been adopted not only in the civil industry, but also in aerospace, energy, and transportation. “Civionics” (similar to mechatronics and avionics) serves as a single-word description for a multidisciplinary approach in civil engineering, and should thus be viewed as the application of SHM to civil structures. Currently the only practical application of a multidisciplinary approach in civil engineering is in SHM. Civionics has not been as broadly used as mechatronics, presumably because of slower adoption of new technologies in civil engineering; however, with the growing adoption of optical sensing, wireless, and other technologies, civionics will undoubtedly be used more frequently.

The International Society for Structural Health Monitoring of Intelligent Infrastructures has it in its glossary of definitions (www.ishmii.org).
Nathan Yang
National Instruments

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