Sensor Networks: From Smart Dust to Multi-scale, Multi-modal, Multi-user Observing Systems
Internet and wireless technologies have flattened the world by revolutionizing the exchange of information among individuals and organizations at a global scale over the past decade. Similar technological forces have led to the emergence of embedded networked sensing systems, or sensor networks, that are bringing about the next revolution. This new local revolution is making the world “transparent” by enabling observation of physical, biological, chemical, enterprise, urban, social, and personal processes up close, and at spatial and temporal details that are simply impossible otherwise. Already this technology has led to new science resulting from observation of new phenomena in areas ranging from the investigation of critical microclimate on the scale of a mountain canyon, to distribution of contaminants and their introduction into ground water supplies, to the fine-scale properties of alpine plants. The considerable progress in the past few years have also led to the realization that the early view of sensor networks as “smart dust” – a large and ad hoc but flat and homogeneous single-purpose long-lived collection of static resource-constrained devices – needs to be considerably expanded to a view of these systems as multi-scale, multi-modal, multi-user rapidly-deployable actuated observing systems. The talk will describe how the early technical challenges such as autonomous self-configuration, energy-aware protocols, and efficient embedded software are now giving way to new challenges involving system and data integrity, safety and robustness, software re-configuration, and active sensing. Moreover, as the embedded sensing technology moves from scientific, engineering, defense, and industrial contexts to the wider personal, social and urban contexts, a new class of applications are emerging which draw on sensed information about people, objects, and physical spaces, and integrate with the global Internet and cellular infrastructure. The talk will discuss the privacy and data sharing requirement of these applications, and speculate on their implications on the Internet and cellular network fabric and services.