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Han Featured in Wireless Sensor Networks Article


November 2004

Research in wireless sensor networks by Professor Richard Han was recently featured in a Denver Post article on the business side of wireless technology. Excerpts from the article are provided below.

Richard Han photo

A day trip to Fourmile Canyon in early October to study a forest fire with a series of wireless sensors represented a technological breakthrough for

In the canyon west of Boulder, Han and his students learned that the wireless-sensor software they had developed in a laboratory worked in the real world. The sensors successfully monitored a controlled fire, tracking the burn's temperature and movement.

"There is so much power we can leverage with this technology," said Han, a computer science professor who last summer co-founded wireless sensor company Tendril Networks.

The rapidly developing industry of wireless-sensor networks is gaining traction nationwide as startups and technology giants bet on big returns in the future.

But before the nascent technology makes a large-scale splash, engineers and company executives face a handful of hurdles, experts said.

The price of the components required for each point or node on the network is still too high, with each node selling for between $25 to $125. Generating enough commercial demand is another concern, as is identifying a killer application that would spur mass adoption, said Tim Enwall, Tendril's chief executive.

. . .

Wireless networks are made up of a series of nodes that monitor things like temperature, light, pressure and vibrations. Each node requires a variety of components, including a radio chip, an antenna, sensors and a small battery that can supply power for as long as two years. The nodes gather environmental information and broadcast the data back to a central computer.

Han said the cost per node most likely will plunge to less than $10 within four years, and more sensors or even cameras could be added to each node.

. . .

Still, sensor technology itself is nothing new. It's been used for years in a variety of arenas, including home thermostats.

But today's technology is significantly different, Mathias said. For starters, traditional sensor networks require extensive wiring, manpower and time to install.

Wireless sensors, on the other hand, can be deployed in minutes, not months, using Velcro or tape. Also the wireless networks are smart-wired, meaning that when new nodes are added, the whole system adjusts. The networks can be reprogrammed remotely, allowing operators to change the setup on the fly.

. . .

For Han and Tendril Networks, future experiments include avalanche detection applications this winter.

"Now we want to take steps into the outside world under more robust situations," Han said. "The ultimate goal is to outfit an entire home or building."

See "Fired up over wireless Nascent sensor" for the complete article.

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