This paper introduces a data compression method using the K-SVD algorithm and its application to experimental ambient vibration data for structural health monitoring purposes. Because many damage diagnosis algorithms that use system identification require vibration measurements of multiple locations, it is necessary to transmit long threads of data. In wireless sensor networks for structural health monitoring, however, data transmission is often a major source of battery consumption. Therefore, reducing the amount of data to transmit can significantly lengthen the battery life and reduce maintenance cost. The K-SVD algorithm was originally developed in information theory for sparse signal representation. This algorithm creates an optimal over-complete set of bases, referred to as a dictionary, using singular value decomposition (SVD) and represents the data as sparse linear combinations of these bases using the orthogonal matching pursuit (OMP) algorithm. Since ambient vibration data are stationary, we can segment them and represent each segment sparsely. Then only the dictionary and the sparse vectors of the coefficients need to be transmitted wirelessly for restoration of the original data. We applied this method to ambient vibration data measured from a four-story steel moment resisting frame. The results show that the method can compress the data efficiently and restore the data with very little error.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.