The relationship between wireless sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) is a symbiotic one that is gathering pace due to advances in complementary areas of technology. Before looking at whether your wireless sensors are ready for the IoT its important to properly define it.
What is the IoT?
Simply put it is the term used to define the communication of data between a huge network of sensors without the need for humans. The IoT goes beyond this though with IP addresses being assigned to an unimaginable amount of objects. With the IPv6 address space expansion an IP address could be assigned to every atom on Earth and there would still be enough left for 100 Earths this gives an indication of how our everyday environment could wake up.
Another difference from standard machine to machine communication is how the data is used. The ubiquity of smartphones means that the information on the IoT is connected with systems and people.
For the IoT to achieve its full potential and link billions, possibly trillions of sensors together, a robust wireless sensor network is absolutely essential. The opportunities are endless from industrial networks that monitor bridges and the health of machinery to environmental sensor networks that can assess water quality or detect forest fires.
Every network is only as strong as its nodes and while the specifics of the sensor are dependent on the application there are some universal features that must be of sufficient quality to meet the challenges of the IoT.
When incorporated into a network the main characteristics of each node is; a sensor, transceiver, micro-controller and power source. Clearly all these components need to be of sufficient quality but the sensors and power source are particularly affected by the development of the IoT.
Sensors: Without a well-designed sensing unit that can withstand the environment it was built to operate in the network will fail. The technology for creating sensors that are the size of a grain of sand exists but this will obviously increase the risk of failure.
Power Source: Improvements in battery technology have facilitated the development of smaller sensors. Smaller batteries with a higher energy density are a key feature in todays wireless sensor network. Energy harvesting is also seen as a vital tool in ensuring sensors can be kept in-situ for long periods of time without needing replaced. This can take a variety of forms from solar to thermal energy, an example is a project in Canary Wharf where a pavement collects data on visitors habits whilst harvesting the kinetic energy generated by their footsteps.
Whether your wireless sensor is ready for the IoT depends on a variety of factors not least what size of network it will be used in and how it will communicate. The IoT is in its infancy and there is still a lot of issues to be ironed but it will definitely make a huge impact on everyones lives in the not too distant future.
Sensor-Works has wireless sensors to help maintain machinery. Sensor-Works latest product is the BluVib wireless machine condition sensor. Measuring both vibration and temperature data, the Machine Condition Sensor combines a sensor, data collector, data analysis and low power wireless communication into a compact, self-powered housing.
Get in touch with us today, we are condition monitoring professionals, able to discuss your individual maintenance and engineering requirements and offer solutions for implementing condition monitoring work or managing a reliability focused maintenance strategy.