Has wireless sensor networking technology moved from being a hobby for tech-heads into a viable commercial proposition? The author of a new book on ‘Building Wireless Sensor Networks’ thinks so, although the very nature of the book suggests that we are still not quite there…
In an interview on the O’Reilly Radar website, author Robert Faludi (whilst promoting his new book) discusses the possibilities of wireless sensor networks. As Faludi explains, because wireless sensor networks are distributed they are ideal for collecting data. For example, a single soil moisture sensor in a field will give details of the moisture at that one point, but 100 of them will provide the entire topography of the moisture in the soil, and whether those differences change in shape over time. And because the networks are two-way, actuators can be deployed to physically affect the environment based upon the data from the sensor networks.
“I think we've crossed the chasm from academic experimentation toward widespread commercial deployment of low-power, low-bandwidth wireless sensor and device networking. Smart energy, home networking and industrial implementations are well out of the gate. At the same time there's an astounding opportunity for proving the value of these networks in the market. Those with a knack for the technical and a sense of adventure can create the killer applications that will drive an inventive industry for years to come.
It's getting to be a pretty exciting time.”
Faludi advocates the use of the ZigBee IEEE 802.15.4 wireless networking protocol, which utilises the 2.4 GHz radio frequency to deliver what it claims is “a variety of reliable and easy-to-use standards anywhere in the world.” Established in 2002, it is an open, non-profit members association. Here’s what it’s website says:
“Numerous utilities and energy service providers are deploying ZigBee solutions because ZigBee meets their needs and gives them an inherently green, reliable, secure and easy-to-use standard, ZigBee Smart Energy. Only ZigBee offers ZigBee Smart Energy, the world's preferred wireless smart metering standard for advanced metering infrastructure home area networks. Entire cities, like Goteborg Sweden, rely on ZigBee standards.”
Faludi says he is looking forward to a future where wireless communications are part of everything around us, helping to create behaviors and interactions that can be carried out in an intelligent fashion.
“As they become more widely used, a radio that costs $18 will eventually come down to $1 or even $0.50. Low cost is important if you want to fool around with a network of 100 devices. Range, stability, and setup will also improve. The dream is to just turn the radio on and have it figure out which network to join, what its role is, and configure itself.”
He concludes that although devices are smart right now, they can't talk to each other properly, so all the information they detect are kept hidden from other systems: “The great systems that people design are going to be the first steps in making that cool and useful world a reality.”
More about the book, ‘Building Wireless Sensor Networks’
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