Wireless sensor networks can address industrial, economic, and societal issues
Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Sensing and Control, said the growing use of wireless sensors-and the increasing trend toward connecting multiple sensors on Internet-based networks-is creating an environment in which sensing technology is pervasive, and that "world of interconnected sensors," will produce tremendous industrial, environmental, economic, and societal benefits.
Wireless sensor networks can help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing the world today-including the need for conserving energy, lowering the cost of healthcare, and improving governemental response to natural disasters.
This vision of wireless sensors as global problem solvers was presented by Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Sensing and Control , during her June 10 keynote address at the 23rd annual Sensors Expo & Conference. The conference took place in Rosemont, IL.
Wozniak said the growing use of wireless sensors-and the increasing trend toward connecting multiple sensors on Internet-based networks-is creating an environment in which sensing technology is pervasive, and that "world of interconnected sensors," will produce tremendous industrial, environmental, economic, and societal benefits.
Changing the world with wireless sensing
"These emerging smart sensor technologies will be able to help meet many of the most important technical, economic and social challenges our society faces today-including energy conservation, health care, transportation safety, and natural disaster response," Wozniak declared.
Much of Wozniak's optimism about the potential impact of wireless sensors networks stems from their ability to be self organizing, self healing, and self sustaining. She also said advancements in wireless technologies and standards-such as ISA100, MEMS, miniaturization, batteries, energy harvesting, and data analysis-will contribute to the positive influence this technology can have on the world.
Just back from a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in Lisbon Portugual, Wozniak said she was among 40 representatives from 30 OECD member countries looking at how sensors can help resolve global challenges in healthcare, transportation, environment, and energy.
The U.S. contributes about 25 percent of the OECD's 300 million euro budget, she said.
How can technology help?
Wozniak provided examples of how pervasive wireless sensor networks can help in various areas:
• Healthcare: Accurate wireless monitoring of patients or the elderly outside a hospital or other formal healthcare setting could help reduce costs and increase medication effectiveness (60 percent of patients don't take medications as prescribed). If patients are monitored through sensors, doctors can see how they are functioning and adjust medications to exact levels needed.
• Environment: In something called "precision agriculture," German studies show that sensing moisture in soil and fertilizer absorption (combined with video surveillance) can significantly increase crop yield and optimize water use. Separately, trends and patterns in the Great Barrier Reef may get Australian government sponsorship for sensor-based monitoring to halt spread of invasive species. In transportation, European studies are looking at allowing other traffic into bus lanes when there are no buses, significantly increasing traffic flow. Consider other benefits if all cars become wireless sensor platforms, with GPS, road monitoring, weather sensors, and proximity sensors for traffic, Wozniak added.
• Industrial manufacturing: Applications include high value equipment health monitoring for oil and gas, process control, petrochemical and other industries. Quantify benefits to speed adoptionDemonstration of economic benefits can speed adoption of wireless sensor networks, according to Wozniak. Honeywell Sensing and Control is looking at smarter and smaller sensors with embedded ASICs, CPUs, and algorithms.
For instance, what traditionally was just an airflow sensor can now measure, condition a signal, decide, and actuate a decision, all in one device, she said.Contactless smart position sensors can replace many contact position sensors in applications including water quantity irrigation, aviation, and bottling company valve replacement.
Wireless sensor networks such as the Honeywell OneWireless network are already in place, are secure and have 80 percent lower installation costs versus wired solutions, she said.
"These produce simpler and cleaner deployments, with more sensing points, especially in places that cannot be wired," she explained. Trending and asset health monitoring potential is huge; only 10 percent of large oil company assets are being monitored, Wozniak added.
"We're making progress with more efficient use of power, energy harvesting, battery life management, and ability to connect to existing IT and other assets. Wireless networks must work with what users already have and work across multiple applications and communicate in multiple protocols," Wozniak said.
-Mark T. Hoske, MBT electronic products editor, www.mbtmag.com