Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making sense of sensor nets

A brief trip to IEEE Secon raised more questions than answers for me about the status and outlook for wireless sensor networks.

A workshop on WiFi meshes suggested a few small companies are seeing some market traction with the technology despite the fact the 802.11s standard has gotten bogged down and there appears to be a lot of fundamental research still being worked out. Eric Brewer made it clear the technology has both huge potential and tremendous challenges in what is its potentially biggest market—getting the developing world on the Net.

A fire hose of a keynote from David Culler (pictured) raised other questions about work in the lower power, lower bandwidth 802.15.4 world. Here too it seems there are still unresolved standards and software issues for the industry, particularly around how meshes and routing are being defined. Culler’s efforts hold promise of a way forward, despite questions about what are the driving apps for sensor nets.

I suspect the apps are diverse ranging from the factory floor to health care at home, as Intel has shown. BTW, whatever happened to that national sensor net programs folks around the U.S. Homeland Security Department were talking about a few years ago?

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