Sensing the Future
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the university is currently the focal point for embedded networked
systems research, industry isn't completely sitting on the sidelines.
Intel Corp., in particular, has played a key role, both as a funder
and as a developer of enabling technologies. "This line of
research can tremendously increase the spatial and temporal fidelity
with which we obtain data about the world around us," says
David Tennenhouse, Intel vice president of corporate technology
and director of research. Tennenhouse notes, as an example, that
farmers will obtain much more reliable spatial information with
micro-weather stations placed on individual sensor nodes than from
a precipitation report originating from the local airport. And with
constant sampling and data readings, the temporal resolution is
more precise, potentially enabling new phenomena to be detected.
Along the same lines, Tennenhouse predicts that improvements in
data collection will lead to major productivity gains in many manufacturing
and agricultural sectors.
challenges loom. On the technical side, energy management has been
a major issue since day one, necessitating systems that can automatically
switch on and off as needed. Estrin notes that CENS researchers
such as Professor of Electrical Engineering Mani Srivastava are
developing techniques to exploit redundancy in measurements so as
to overcome massive issues associated with distributed-sensor calibration;
they also need to provide a programming environment for these systems
so that applications can be implemented and updated quickly without
violating the severe resource constraints of the wireless nodes.
Social and legal concerns will need to be addressed. "In information
technology, there's always an issue of who will have access to it,
and for what purposes," says Pottie, an associate dean in the
engineering school and deputy director of CENS. "The question
is how the technology and public-policy processes should be shaped
to ensure maximum social benefit."
CENS is focusing on scientific applications, there is little doubt
that non-scientific uses will one day move front and center. The
surveillance aspect of embedded networked systems has the potential
to facilitate large-scale monitoring of borders, ports and civil
infrastructure for homeland-security purposes. More everyday activities
also could be transformed. The Internet shopping experience could
be layered on top of the physical experience, so that window shoppers
could hyperlink to more information about products.
Pottie: "Once you begin to think of this in terms of cyberspace
and real space being intimately connected, the possibilities become