Wireless Sensor

So Much More

July 1, 2006 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors


The Today at Sensors weblog (www.sensorsmag.com ) not only gave us Sensors editors an outlet to report daily from Sensors Expo (June 5–7, www.sensorsexpo.com), but also it lets us tell you more about Expo happenings—among other things—than we've been able to before. Thank goodness, because there's much to tell!

From the show, we reported on the Best of Sensors Expo award winners (the article on page 14 weaves those timely fragments into a cohesive report). Afterward, executive editor Stephanie Henkel reported on the engaging keynote address given by Gentry Lee, the man responsible for the engineering integrity of NASA's JPL-managed robotic planetary missions (www.sensorsmag.com/0706/GSlee). And in his opening essay for the Sensors Wireless & M2M newsletter, contributing editor Wayne Manges reported on the Department of Energy's new government-funded R&D program announced at Expo, as well as his favorite conference session (www.sensorsmag.com/0706/GSmanges).

We're not the only ones blogging about the Expo. For instance, Eric Bryant wrote on Autoblog.com about the keynote by Sebastian Thrun, leader of Stanford University's winning entry in the DARPA Grand Challenge (www.sensorsmag.com/0706/GSthrun).

And So On
Stay tuned, because we haven't yet covered everything we'd like to, including the concurrent ZigBee Developers' Conference. But here's one item: in the midst of heavy interference introduced by cell phones, WiFi networks, and Bluetooth headsets, multiple groups demonstrated the capabilities of their wireless sensor networking products by scattering nodes throughout the exhibit hall. For example, S3C (www.sc3inc.com), one of the 65 new exhibitors at this year's Expo, distributed modules—pressure sensors integrated with IEEE 802.15.4 radios, antennas, and software—to demonstrate the 150 m LOS range of its turnkey ZigBee offering that interfaces to ODBC databases.

Along similar lines, Atmel, Crossbow, Honeywell, and National Instruments created a ZigBee mesh—involving Atmel's AVR microcontroller; Crossbow's processor/radio, DAQ board, and software; Honeywell's sensors; and National Instruments' LabVIEW—to measure temperatures and "publish" the data to the Internet.

The Theme That Grows
Exactly half of the products nominated for Best of Sensors Expo awards incorporate wireless data transmission—and several would not exist without wireless. By comparison, in 1999 (the year we launched Best of Sensors Expo), none of the entrants fit that latter criterion—and just 25% of the winners and finalists (that is, the most innovative of the lot) incorporated wireless.

The trend will continue, thanks to developments such as Atmel's Z-Link ZigBee radio chip, which integrates with the company's popular AVR controllers. (Those in the electronics industry know Atmel as a major player in the microcontroller space and can easily appreciate the significance of this move—as well as Atmel's plans to double its presence at Sensors Expo next year.) Another example is Tendril Networks' (www.tendrilinc.com) impressive demo, which knitted together disparate wireless components (some proprietary, some ZigBee, etc.) into one seamless control loop. This points the way to an exciting future.

So does this month's cover story (page 18), as Stephanie Henkel pointed out in her blog entry of June 20). Read it and be inspired!


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