Press Release

NSF sensors activities in focus at AAAS annual meeting in Seattle

By SpaceRef Editor
February 19, 2004
Filed under ,

In the 1990s, the Internet connected us to a planet-wide web of

information-all the zillions of bits that are stored in computer

memories and hard drives. But now, thanks to an ongoing

revolution in highly miniaturized, wirelessly networked sensors,

the Internet is reaching out into the physical world, as well.

“We call it ‘the Embedding of the Internet’,” says Deborah

Estrin, who is a computer scientist of the University of

California, Los Angeles, and director of the Center for Embedded

Networked Sensing, a multi-university research partnership that

was launched in August 2002 with funding by the National Science

Foundation (NSF). “And it’s going to transform our ability to

understand and manage the physical world around us.”

Indeed, that prospect has led the NSF to fund sensor research for

the past decade and more, culminating in a foundation-wide

Sensors and Sensor Networks Program that was begun in 2003 with a

first-year funding of $47 million. Among the likely applications:

  • Networks of wireless environmental sensors could be

    deployed in remote areas to monitor factors such as the

    moisture load of the vegetation (and thus the degree of

    fire danger); agricultural runoff in rivers, streams, and

    groundwater; seismic events; air quality; and the

    ecosystem’s overall response to climate change.

  • Bridges and buildings with built-in sensor networkscould

    report on their own structural integrity, and pinpoint

    internal damage after an earthquake.

  • Networks of miniature chemical and biological sensors could

    be deployed in hospitals, post offices, and other sensitive

    areas to raise the alarm at the first sign of anthrax,

    smallpox, ricin, or other indications of a terrorist


  • Clusters of “smart,” but almost undetectably small sensors

    could be scattered across a stretch of hostile territory by

    air to monitor traffic and troop movements.

    Sensors and their applications will also be very much in evidence

    at the Seattle meeting of the American Association for the

    Advancement of Science (AAAS). Among the most prominent events

    will be two topical lectures:

    Deborah Estrin: Instrumenting the World with Wireless Sensor Networks

    Friday, February 13, 2004, 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.

    Larry R. Dalton: Electro-Optics for the Next Generation Information Technology, Sensing, And Defense Applications

    Friday, February 13, 2004, 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.

    Dalton is director of the NSF-funded Center on Materials and

    Devices for Information Technology Research at the University of


    But other sessions will be dealing with sensors, as well:

    Cyberinfrastructure: Revolutionizing Environmental Science in the 21st Century

    Friday, February 13, 2004, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon & 2:30 p.m. -5:30 p.m.

    Estrin will be giving a technical talk in the afternoon session.

    “Cyberinfrastructure” is a term that ‘s come to describe NSF’s

    most expansive, long-term vision of computing-a vision that most

    definitely includes extensive sensor networks.

    Miniaturization of Chemical, Energy and Biological Systems for Security Applications

    Friday, February 13, 2004, 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

    2004 Nanotechnology Seminar: Chemical and Biological Nanosensors

    Friday, February 13, 2004, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

    21st Century Photonics

    Sunday, February 15, 2004, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon & 2:30 p.m. -5:30 p.m.

    Larry Dalton will be speaking in the morning session.

  • SpaceRef staff editor.