Published on Dec 17, 2015
Over the last year or so you may have heard about a new computing concept known as motes. This concept is also called smart dust and wireless sensing networks. It seems like just about every issue of Popular Science, Discover and Wired today contains a blurb about some new application of the mote idea.
For example, the military plans to use them to gather information on battlefields, and engineers plan to mix them into concrete and use them to internally monitor the health of buildings and bridges.
There are thousands of different ways that motes might be used, and as people get familiar with the concept they come up with even more. It is a completely new paradigm for distributed sensing and it is opening up a fascinating new way to look at computers.In this article, you will have a chance to understand how motes work and see many of the possible applications of the technology. Then we will look at a MICA mote -- an existing technology that you can buy to experiment with this unique way of sensing the world.
Sensor networks have been applied to various research areas at a number of academic institutions. In particular, environmental monitoring has received a lot of attention with major projects at UCB, UCLA and other places. In addition, commercial pilot projects are staring to emerge as well. There are a number of start-up companies active in this space and they are providing mote hardware as well as application software and back-end infrastructure solutions.
The University of California at Berkeley in conjunction with the local Intel Lab is conducting an environmental monitoring project using mote based sensor networks on Great Duck Island off the coast of Maine. This endeavor includes the deployment of tens of motes and several gateways in a fairly harsh outdoor environment.
The motes are equipped with a variety of environmental sensors (temperature, humidity, light, atmospheric pressure, motion, etc.). They form a self-organizing multi-hop sensor net work that is linked via gateways to a base station on the island. There, the data is collected and transmitted via a satellite link to the Internet. This setup enabled researchers to continuously monitor an endangered bird species on the island without constant perturbation of their habitat. The motes gather detailed data on the bird population and their environment around the clock which would
The Intel Mote has been designed after a careful study of the application space for sensor networks. We have interviewed a number of researchers in this space and collected their feedback on desired im-provements over currently available mote designs. A list of requests that have been repeatedly mentioned includes the following key items: o Increased CPU processing power.
In particular, for applications such as acoustic sensing and localization additional computational resources are required. o Increased main memory size. Similar to the item above, sensor network applications are beginning to stretch the limits of existing hardware designs. This need is amplified by the desire to perform localized computation on the motes.