Tiny Sensors That Can Track Anything
Wireless, battery-powered sensors dubbed “smart dust” are moving out of the research arena and into the commercial domain: Dust Networks announced this week that Science Applications International would employ the sensors for electronic perimeter security systems, and Sensicast Systems declared a contract to supply sensors to monitor environmental conditions at a nuclear generating facility.
The potential security applications of smart dust or mote technology aroused the interest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which has bankrolled university research. Researchers say any number of sensors can be deployed to track activity or monitor temperature, weather, and other factors to evaluate their surroundings. The motes can broadcast the data they collect to their neighbors from as far away as 100 feet, and redundancy is built into a “smartmesh” so the network can compensate when individual devices malfunction.
The Intel Research Laboratory has deployed smart sensor networks on an island off the coast of Maine to take climate and other environmental readings as part of an effort “to develop a habitat monitoring kit that enables researchers worldwide to engage in the non-intrusive and non-disruptive monitoring of sensitive wildlife and habitats,” according to a report on the project.
Until recently, the technology’s commercial prospects were limited by size and affordability issues, along with a lack of wireless communication. Analysts expect sensor networks to become as populous as computers on the World Wide Web, and some predict that one day practically any object could be linked to the Internet and monitored remotely through these networks.
Challenges that remain include figuring out how to make the sensors more power-efficient and eliminating their vulnerability to signal disruption from physical obstacles or electrical interference.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Washington Post (09/24/04) P. E1; O’Harrow Jr., Robert .