Toward a Safer, More Humane World

March 1, 2005 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors

"We feel helpless when we face [a] natural disaster," says Sensors reader Zhang Kun. By 2024, he says, new sensor systems will help us save lives by predicting earthquakes and other phenomena that devastate. For many years, sensors have increased our safety in factories, in cars, and at home. And now, sensors are having an impact beyond these more controlled environments. Scientists are monitoring a volcano in Ecuador with Crossbow's Smart Dust motes (which compose a wireless sensor network) for signs of activity undetectable to human senses, and emergency personnel are using the AreaRAE chemical sensor system from RAE Systems to more precisely determine the area affected by a chemical spill.

 Barbara G. Goode
Barbara G. Goode

While no amount of technology will ever let us live entirely without risk, it's easy to see how an increasingly instrumented world will provide increasing safety. This gives us hope in the face of the recent tsunami that families and countries will deal with for years to come. As we work toward this goal, we can continue to share our material riches and our empathy with those directly affected.

January's editorial, which shared the views of some readers on what sensing will look like in 2024—which will be Sensors' 40th anniversary—inspired other readers to write. Kun was just one. Many of the latest crop of predictions centered on medical applications.

Joe Muzika says, "Sensors will be used to help the biomedics immune system block destructive attacks on the human body." A reader named Melvin envisions sensors that can detect blood type, while Dario Delgado says we will be able to identify and even detect people by their unique chemical "fingerprint." Ken Wong sees a future in which sensors will interface the doctor with the patient so the doctor won't need to ask, "Where does it hurt?" Or, "How do you feel?"

Wong also predicts the advent of sensors that will give sight to the blind by interfacing the optic nerve to implantable micro cameras that function as the human eye. And Bernard Tashie-Lewis looks forward to sensors that will detect nervous patterns in paralyzed people to help them move wheelchairs without having to use a control pad. These are inspiring visions of the future.

Spread the Inspiration!

This month, the editors of Sensors will have our imaginations fired as we review nominations for the second annual Sensors Humanitarian Award. Do you know someone (perhaps even yourself) who was motivated by an incident or situation to help resolve a medical or ethical problem? Then please nominate the person(s) for the Sensors Humanitarian Award ( by March 18. Yes please, help us to spread the inspiration. We look forward to announcing the winner(s) during Sensors Expo & Conference 2005 in June ( and within the pages of Sensors.

Barbara G. Goode Editor in Chief 603-924-5414

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