In the wake of two recent news announcements, I'd have to say that 2007 looks to be a very interesting year for sensor networking. Arch Rock announced a new wireless sensor networking system that natively runs IP (Arch Rock Turns Wireless Sensors into Internet Devices), allowing easier (and direct) access to existing TCP/IP-based networks, and Zensys is pushing a plan to converge its Z-Wave wireless home networking protocol with TCP/IP (Z-Wave Converges with TCP/IP for Wireless Home Control).
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Let's consider that for a moment: two wireless sensor networking companies are creating systems that can talk to TCP/IP-based networks without having to go through a gateway. Add the fact that Cisco and Rockwell Automation are collaborating on ways to integrate industrial networks with enterprise networks (Cisco and Rockwell Automation Collaborate) and the trends discussed in Ray Peacock's recent essay about Sensor Gateways to Enterprise Systems and you get a picture of an industry on the move.
In the last couple of years, I've seen increasing numbers of gateway devices introduced by sensor and industrial networking manufacturers. The push is to integrate the various networks you have—many of which are proprietary—into an operable whole. By making sensor data available throughout the enterprise, you can achieve insight into your operation that you can't necessarily achieve otherwise.
Keep your eyes peeled for developments in middleware, too. Companies such as Augusta Systems and Pervasa are figuring out how to abstract sensor information, allowing the creation of new enterprise-wide applications to use, access, or examine the information. In much the same way that people are integrating multiple types of data into a single view (take a look at The Big Picture: Sensor Webs in a Disaster Response Demo or Reality Mining: Browsing Reality with Sensor Networks), they're also increasingly looking to software to create new hardware- and platform-agnostic functions and capabilities with existing devices and networks.
One of the research areas is called service-oriented device architecture (SODA). Click here for an article explaining the concept in greater depth. It talks about using software to integrate disparate physical devices into distributed IT enterprise systems. Alternatively, if you're attending Sensors Expo next month, you can attend a conference session on the topic.
The payoff for all of these efforts is to create a data-rich view of the enterprise, one that's seamless, flexible, and powerful. My question to you is: How much of this trend is already impacting you? Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to post a comment.