It's Bigger Than You Think

E-mail Tom Kevan

Until recently, we've been limited by a narrow view of the part that sensors play and the applications that they support. It's time to recognize the broader relevance of sensor data.

The news constantly describes the explosion of emerging and innovative sensor applications in a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, medical, defense and homeland security, and transportation. But this worldview doesn't provide a complete picture of the technology's place in the not-too-distant future. As I read about sensor networks and enterprise systems, I see connections between the two that point to a larger, more integrated world in which sensors play a growing role.

Sensors will contribute data from the network's edge to provide a real-time view of critical operations and processes to all interested parties in the enterprise. The data will be presented in many different ways but always in a context relevant to the specific needs of each user, allowing them to optimize their own areas of interest. Sensor data are migrating from the factory floor to all levels of the enterprise.

In the Works
A recent article in Information Week titled "Intel, ADT Prep Future Sensor Networks" puts this into perspective and shows that the concept is coming into its own.

Intel and ADT are developing the means to communicate and process data collected from motes, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, and other types of sensors in a way that will enable companies to build networks that hand off information to different infrastructure layers and drive new business processes. The sensors, RFID tags, and motes will sit at the edge of the network and act as the eyes and ears of the enterprise. They will enable a range of applications still to be determined.

Randy Dunn, Director of RFID at ADT Security Services Inc., observed, "We've suffered from this one-dimensional notion that one sensor must represent a specific activity. God gave you five senses for a reason—to process your world. The ability to take data points and tie them together to get an idea on an unfolding event is important to deliver these types of services."

We still don't know the full potential of sensor networks. We do know that the days of isolated networks serving a single purpose are numbered. The role and relevance of sensor data is bigger than we think. And the network edge is no farther away than your computer or PDA.

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