The ultrasmall sensors of the future will monitor our health parameters, vehicles, machines and processes, buildings and smart constructions, and the environment. They will operate autonomously for long periods on a small battery, and they will communicate wirelessly. A key factor for their success, therefore, is their low power consumption, which will define the range of applications and functionalities for which they can be used.
At the 38th European Solid-State Circuits Conference in September, Imec and Holst Centre (Eindhoven, Netherlands) presented four ultralow-power developments to drive next-generation sensors and sensor networks: a frequency-shift-keying receiver for body-area networks, a flexible successive-approximation-register A/D converter for wireless sensor nodes, fast start-up techniques for duty-cycled impulse radio receivers, and a design approach targeting subthreshold operation.
ULP receiver for body-area network applications
Imec and Holst have developed a power-efficient receiver for ULP BAN (ultralow-power body-area network) applications. Whereas most transceivers exploit OOK (on-off keying) modulation, the new receiver uses FSK (frequency-shift keying) modulation and is hence less sensitive to interference. The complete receiver, fabricated in 40-nm CMOS technology, consumes 382.5 μW. The sensitivity measured at a bit error rate of 10−3 is –81 dBm for a 12.5-kbit/sec bit rate. The bit rate is scalable up to 625 kbits/sec, enabling a trade-off between sensitivity and bit rate. Taking advantage of the short-range nature of BAN applications, a mixer-first architecture is proposed, leading to a good dynamic range.
Flexible SAR ADC for ULP wireless sensor nodes
Wireless sensor nodes for electroencephalography, electrocardiography, and temperature and pressure monitoring require ULP ADCs for both the sensor-readout interface and the wireless-communication front end. Each of these applications, however, has its own requirements for accuracy and bandwidth. Imec and Holst Centre have realized a flexible, power-efficient SAR (successive approximation register) ADC that designers can use for a variety of applications. The device supports resolutions from 7 to 10 bits and sample rates from dc to 2M samples/sec; the flexibility is achieved by implementing a reconfigurable comparator and a reconfigurable DAC. The chip, in a 90-nm process, occupies 0.047 mm2, and achieves power efficiencies of 2.8- to 6.6-fJ/conversion step at 2M samples/sec and with a 0.7V supply.
More info here.
The 7th Summer School on IoT/M2M and Applications of Smart and Connected Devices, senZations’12, takes place September 3 – September 7, 2012, in Drvengrad, Serbia. The senZations summer school has become an annual event on the agenda of young researchers in Europe. Covering a range of novel topics from wireless sensor networks to M2M to Internet of Things and their applications with support of excellent lecturers and senior researchers from academy and industry, the senZations have attracted more than 300 students during the past six events.
Design and deploy your own IoT/M2M solutions in the magical environment of Drvengrad and run experiments on the SmartSantander framework! Learn about the latest achievements in the field of IoT and M2M from the experts coming from the EU FP7 projects EXALTED, LOLA, HOBNET and SmartSantander! Join us, have fun, meet peers and experienced researchers, expand your network of contacts.
The aim of the summer school is to:
- Run experiments on SmartSantander framework including a live deployment in Drvengrad
- Present the latest results, trends, activities and applications in the IoT and M2M domain
- Identify novel research opportunities, important challenges and research directions
- Demonstrate existing prototypes and demos – and implement new ones!
- Interact with experienced researchers and establish new contacts
- Have fun and enjoy the beauty of the Serbian mountains while acquiring new skills and expertise
More info here.
For the last year, it’s been all quiet on the IPv6 front in the United States. But now the U.S. government is making noise about this next-generation Internet technology, as it forges ahead with plans to deploy secure, IPv6-enabled network services.
“We can’t keep operating in an IPv4 world when we’re talking about sensor networks, wireless communications and mobile networks,” Tseronis says. “We need more IP addresses – globally unique IP addresses — and that’s what IPv6 provides…We need a target network architecture that’s scalable, secure and stable.”
The road map says federal CIOs need to develop concrete plans to deploy IPv6 and that they will be required to provide quarterly progress reports that include IPv6 to OMB.
“For those who may think that IPv6 is on ice, it’s anything but,” Tseronis says. He adds that in order for an agency to receive a green light from OMB on its enterprise architecture, it will need a strategy for deploying secure IPv6-enabled network services followed by IPv6-enabled applications.
More info here.
At CTIA, one of the biggest telecom industry conferences, former vice president-turned-cleantech-investor Al Gore told wireless executives in the audience last Friday that wireless technology will be one of the key tools used to fight climate change: “This is one of those rare times we all agree that the government needs to build out a green infrastructure that will free us from foreign oil and draw on clean energy.” It’s one of the themes we touched on at our recent Green:Net conference.
Wireless sensor networks and communication networks placed on the grid will help utilities monitor and control the flow of energy better and more effectively address power outages. At the edge of the grid, consumers will use wireless networks to better manage their energy consumption. Investors are starting to make more investments in these wireless technology pieces: Just today Ember told us it has raised $8 million to help it deploy more of its wireless sensor network technology. Traditional telcos, too, like AT&T are also repositioning themselves to sell into the smart grid and AT&T says it is working with smart meter maker SmartSynch to provide its wireless network for residential installations.
More info here.
TRAFFIC experts in the North East are working on a gem of an idea to help people dodge air pollution hotspots.
The Transport Operations Research Group (Torg) at Newcastle University has developed “smart dust” technology which involves using tiny wireless sensors.
The group is now placing the sensors in jewellery which can be worn by people to tell them what levels of air pollution they are experiencing.
The sensors, which can also be fitted to mobile phones, relay information on pollution hotspots elsewhere which can then be avoided.
This is especially important for people with respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, and other health conditions.
The low-cost sensors, housed in metal boxes, were attached to 40 lamp posts in Gateshead last November in a trial which is the first of its kind in the world.
The lamp post sensors communicate with each other, and the last one in the line reports real-time information on air pollution levels to an online database.
This can be combined with data from vehicle-counting systems at traffic lights to give a picture of both congestion and pollution.
More info here.
Micropelt GmbH, Freiburg, Germany-based specialist in thin film thermoelectrics, announces immediate commercial availability of the world’s first thermo-powered wireless sensor system, the TE-Power NODE. Micropelt’s built-in chip thermogenerator takes a few degrees of temperature differential and harvests that thermal energy to operate the wireless sensor node, enabling unlimited battery-free operation.
Wireless sensor networks offer many advantages. Market growth, however, lags behind expectations as many potential users avoid the burden of having to maintain hundreds or thousands of batteries. Micropelt’s TE-Power NODE fixes the issue. The TE-Power NODE evaluation kit transmits multiple channels of digital sensor data helping both users and integrators of thermoharvesters better understand many aspects of their implementation in terms of application scenarios and energy budgets.
More info here and here.
From the intro to a front-page story in The NY Times:
Increasingly, many older people who live alone are not truly alone. They are being watched by a flurry of new technologies designed to enable them to live independently and avoid expensive trips to the emergency room or nursing homes.
Bertha Branch, 78, discovered the power of a system called eNeighbor when she fell to the floor of her Philadelphia apartment late one night without her emergency alert pendant and could not phone for help.
A wireless sensor under Ms. Branch’s bed detected that she had gotten up. Motion detectors in her bedroom and bathroom registered that she had not left the area in her usual pattern and relayed that information to a central monitoring system, prompting a call to her telephone to ask if she was all right. When she did not answer, that incited more calls — to a neighbor, to the building manager and finally to 911, which dispatched firefighters to break through her door. She had been on the floor less than an hour when they arrived.
The Wireless Sensor Network Research Group has published a complete article about the security insights in 802.15.4 and ZigBee networks. An essential document for those who want to know more about how the encryption, authentication
and data integrity mechanisms are developed and how they can be used to get a more secure deployment for Wireless Sensor Networks. The article is available here.
The hand-sized yellow objects poking up among the lush canopies at Camalie Vineyards aren’t a new variety of monster grape. They’re electronic devices that can sense soil moisture.
Viticulturist Mark Holler says these wireless sensors sprinkled throughout the leaves help him manage the high cost of irrigation and improve his yield.
“Wireless sensor networks extend the Internet … out into the environment,” says Mr. Holler, a retired Intel technologist who owns and runs the 4.4-acre vineyard in Napa, Calif.
While the networks won’t necessarily make someone a better vintner, they do have a practical side: During the 2007 drought in California, Holler figures the technology saved him several thousand dollars in water costs.
More info here.
The ZigBee/802.15.4 USB pen drive created by the Wireless Sensor Network Research Group and the Libelium team is currently being used as an access point to Wireless Sensor Networks when using PDA’s and mobile phones. If you PDA or mobile phone has a USB (or mini-USB connector) you can also get your sensor information directly on your hand. All the info in the article.