RFID Glitter Falling from
the Sky"> Pister said Dust Networks has an advantage over its competitorsCross Bow, Millennial, Emberin that its components burn less power, providing a decade of life for a D-cell battery, for example. He hopes to develop a "truly single-chip mote" within the next three years that will put a solar cell into the silicon chip itself, obviating the need for an external battery and shrinking the mote down to an ever-smaller size."I dont think we are ready to take a handful of sensorslike a handful of glitterand drop them out of an airplane and they read information," said Bourne, in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Right now, theyre limited by the size of the battery. There are some solar-based approaches, and some completely different approaches, that could feasibly allow Smart Dust to be just that." Though its taken a while for the Smart Dust concept to prove out, Emerson Electric Co. announced in October that it would use Dust Networks Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol (the underlying system for the motes) as the communications technology used in its Smart Wireless field networks and software. "Self-organizing mesh networking is one of the most exciting innovations to come along in the process industry in over 30 years," said Steve Sonnenberg, president of Emersons Rosemount division. "We have tested a number of wireless sensor networking technologies in real-world industrial environments over the last three years and have found that Dust Networks TSMP technology best meets the reliability, security, long battery life and ease of use requirements demanded by our end users." Pister sees asset tracking as the biggest application area for RF Time of Flight, from tracking patients and doctors in a hospital to tracking assets in a theater of war (particularly since early Smart Dust funding came from the Department of Defense). But he also sees many other potential areas of use. "Imagine if we put this capability into cell phones or Palm Pilots and kids start using it to find each other at the mall, or on campus," said Pister. RFID vendors raise the stakes with new products. Click here to read more. "In addition, they can leave little notes that are triggered by proximity to a restaurant or make-out spot. Somebody with a good consumer application could turn the corner in a matter of a year." The time frame for an actual product could be relatively soon. Pister expects to have RF capability on a square millimeter silicon chip by the summer of 2007. "We will show that even little chips running on not very much power can measure their distance with three points of reference," said Pister. "[Whats needed] is someone finding an application for that technology. I do think RF Time of Flight is going to be a big deal and [will] give people the localization capability that delivers on the promise of RFID. But it will take creative people getting the applications right. The technologys almost ready." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
Adding a power source directly to a mote would "really be a breakthrough," according to Marlene Bourne, president and principal analyst at Bourne Research.