Friday, June 06, 2003

Tiny Computers

This press release talks about a new mote named "Spec" that is less than 3 mm by 3mm:

This is the smallest "complete" mote on a single chip that has been developed so far. All it needs is an antenna, a battery, an inductor and a crystal. Developing tiny batteries at the same size scale as the Spec mote is the next step, but that should happen within a year. It will yield a complete mote that fits in just 30 or 40 cubic millimeters.

A mote is a "wireless sensing unit". It has a CPU, a radio transceiver and some sort of sensing capability for things like temperature, humidity, GPS coordinates, etc. The CPU in most motes runs an operating system called TinyOS that handles power management, radio communications, sensor interfacing, etc.

A key feature of motes is the ability to organize themselves into ad hoc networks. For example, if you place motes on a 100' by 100' grid in a forest, the motes will use their radio tranceivers to communicate with one another and start sharing or transfering data. For example, they might funnel all the data collected by all the motes in the forest toward a "super-mote" in one corner of the forest, and then it stores the data for future collection (or transmits it using a high-power radio).

This article and this article offer some details on motes and their networks.

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