Wireless sensor networks: Next 10 years

Wireless sensor networks (WSNs), self-organizing, self-healing networks of small "nodes," have huge potential across industrial, military, and other many other sectors, according to IDTechEx.


- Read Control Engineering wireless articles, collected at www.controleng.com/wireless .

Also see links below for related coverage on wireless standards and energy harvesting.


Wireless sensor networks (WSN) - self organizing, self healing networks of small "nodes" - have huge potential across industrial, military and other many other sectors. While appreciable sales have now been established, major progress depends on standards and achieving 20 year life.

Among recent IDTechEx observations:

- The complex standards scene includes WirelessHART , key to applications in the process industries in the short and medium term. ISA 100.11a has some way to go, but may prove useful over a wider field of application and eventually subsume WirelessHART.

- Various backers of ZigBee-related solutions have had recent successes. Nodes have excessive power consumption, acting as tags and readers. Progress has been good in getting the electronics to consume less electricity, by improved signalling protocols and improved circuitry.

- As for batteries, lithium thionyl chloride single-use versions have 20 year life in certain circumstances but, for many applications, energy harvesting supplying rechargeable batteries is more attractive. That said, where is the rechargeable battery guaranteed for 20 years in use? What are the most promising battery technologies coming available in the next 10 years?

- There are alternatives to batteries. Energy harvesting technologies include photovoltaic, electrodynamic, thermoelectric, and piezoelectric. They may be usable in combinations.

- Which applicational sectors of WSN have the most potential and what lies in the way for each?

These and related topics will be covered at an IDTechEx event in Munich, Germany, May 26-27. Energy Harvesting & Storage Europe and Wireless Sensor Networks & RTLS 2010 features speakers from organizations such as SNCF, General Electric, Philips, NASA, Northrop Grumman, and others. End users will present on their needs and experiences. See www.IDTechEx.com/Munich.

Also see the new IDTechEx report, "Wireless Sensor Networks 2010-2020," which draws lessons from the many successful installations in the last year. www.IDTechEx.com/wsn

- Dr. Peter Harrop is chairman, IDTechEx, Cambridge, UK; edited by Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, Control Engineering , www.controleng.com.

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