Fibre optic sensors have been an important stimulus toward the realisation of the 'smart' structure since the concept became mooted over quarter of a century ago. Indeed without the prospect for the fibre optic 'nervous system' the practicality of achieving the smart structures goal would be significantly impaired. This paper endeavours to present a snapshot of the achievements which fibre based sensor technology has contributed to smart structures and identifies some of the ongoing needs for continued evolution in both the technology itself and, possibly even more important, in the users' perspective on the prospects which fibre optic sensing systems can offer. In particular the tools inherent in distributed sensing which is unique to the fibre optic platform, and in long chains of fibre Bragg gratings, are especially relevant.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.