A Glimpse into the AIDC Future: WSN

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A Glimpse into the AIDC Future: WSN

Looking way beyond barcodes into the vast universe of sensors, data capture and the internet of things, a recent report from IDTechEX provides a breath-taking Hubble-esque glimpse into a future that is already emerging.

WSN is already changing the way we relate to energy

What we see of it today is in the form of smart utilities meters—those water, gas and electric meters some utilities companies and municipalities are installing to reduce the cost of billing their customers. Even in this rather entry-level form, old business paradigms are collapsing. For one, smart meters are not a fast ROI—they are an investment for the long term. But they are also a thought-investment, if you will, on a whole new way to adopt wireless sensors not just at the exterior perimeter the home, but in the home. We already have some of this—for example, internet-enabled refrigerators that order their own replacement water filters when a sensor detects the need.

Take that to the next level, and what you have is WSN—Wireless Sensor Networks, AKA wireless mesh networks. In the home, think of it as things talking to things: the internet of things (rather than people). Why might this be interesting?

Scenario: it’s the dog days of summer; you’re at the office, away from home. Electricity is at peak demand and your refrigerator hasn’t opened in four hours (there’s a sensor for that). Your thermostat wants the house to be cooled to 72F but the ‘frig knows that nobody’s home. The tiny network, think of it as a micro WSN, instructs the thermostat to allow the house to warm up—until it begins staging the house for your return home at about 5:45 PM.

WSN won’t add complexity to a system–it uses what’s already there

Take it to the next level: what if the WSN included not only the water meter, gas meter and electric meter, thermostat and the ‘frig, but also the garage door opener, the TV cable or satellite interface. These all become mesh sensors in a smart house (or office) without adding a lot of traditional, “dedicated” sensors—just using what’s already there.

Consider how powerful such a system becomes with mesh sensing inside the smart house, not just at the meter. It has implications for security, for knowing where somebody is in the structure, for where you left your keys and for a myriad of other things—in additional to dramatic reduction of the cost of wasted energy.

But consider the vastly greater implications of mesh sensing in, for example, a warehouse. Today, the most advanced warehouse uses non mesh sensors such as RFID to provide state-of-the-art real time locating systems (RTLS). To achieve that, every asset must have an RFID tag—in many cases, an expensive active tag. The investment is enormous.

The WSN profile is very different: relatively few sensors communicating with each other via a software platform, sensing conditions, asset movement and locations. The environment could be hospitals, industrial processes, manufacturing, warehousing, asset tracking—almost anything you could think of.

WSN might well replace RTLS–and work better for vastly less cost

What is the much hyped “5-cent solution” to the high cost of RFID wasn’t a cheaper chip—it was getting rid of the chip altogether?

The annual WSN & RTLS Europe 2012 event will convene in Berlin, May 15-16, 2012.

It is Europe’s largest event on Energy Harvesting & Storage and their application.

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