Wireless networks mimicking biological systems

The goal of the EU-funded WINSOC project is to build self-organizing networks of wireless sensors by applying principles learned from living organisms. These wireless sensors will be used for a wide range of environmental monitoring purposes. As says the WINSOC scientific coordinator, 'Living systems are intrinsically robust against cells dying or being damaged,' so let's do the same with our wireless networks to make them more reliable. Several prototypes have already started, including a network of geological sensors installed in the Idduki rainforest of Kerala, India, to detect landslides during the monsoon season. The research team also developed a computer simulator that emulates the spread of a fire through a forest and 'sensors have been placed in a forest in the Czech Republic to detect and locate sources of heat and smoke.' But read more...

The goal of the EU-funded WINSOC project is to build self-organizing networks of wireless sensors by applying principles learned from living organisms. These wireless sensors will be used for a wide range of environmental monitoring purposes. As says the WINSOC scientific coordinator, 'Living systems are intrinsically robust against cells dying or being damaged,' so let's do the same with our wireless networks to make them more reliable. Several prototypes have already started, including a network of geological sensors installed in the Idduki rainforest of Kerala, India, to detect landslides during the monsoon season. The research team also developed a computer simulator that emulates the spread of a fire through a forest and 'sensors have been placed in a forest in the Czech Republic to detect and locate sources of heat and smoke.' But read more...

Sensor based landslide early warning system

You can see above how this technology could be used for a sensor based landslide early warning system. (Credit: a consortium of German universities) "A new level of miniaturization of processors and radio modules encouraged the rise of a new kind of networks: ad hoc wireless sensor networks. Measurement data is collected by distributed sensor nodes, which interact separately and connect each other in a self-organizing manner. Modern nodes for wireless sensor networks are built in a strongly modular way by providing open interfaces for integration of very different measuring sensors. Simple temperature and humidity sensors can be integrated as well as highprecision displacement and acceleration transducers, tiltmeters , geophysical and acoustic sensors or even GPS modules for location determination."

Now, what means WINSOC? It's an acronym for "Wireless Sensor Networks with Self-Organization Capabilities for Critical and Emergency Applications." Here is a link to the WINSOC home page. The project started in Sepetember 2006 and will end in February 2009. It will cost €3.9 millions with about €2.4 millions provided by the EU.

The WINSOC scientific coordinator is Sergio Barbarossa from the University of Rome 'La Sapienza'. Incidentally, I've learned today that "Sapienza was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 as Studium Urbis -- the University of Rome. Today, with 145,000 students, it is the first university in Europe as to the number of students."

Here are additional quotes of Barbarossa excerpted from the ICT Results article mentioned in the introduction. "'The behaviour of most organs is an emerging feature, resulting from the interaction of many cells, where no cell is particularly robust or even aware of the whole behaviour.' A striking example is the rhythm of the heart, which is controlled by the interaction of several pacemaker cells, each of which can be seen as a pulse oscillator. Even though individual oscillators are not particularly stable or reliable, the heart as a whole is extremely stable and can readily adapt to changing conditions."

This is why the WINSOC team designed its self-organized networks by learning from life. "In the WINSOC approach, sensor nodes communicate with their neighbours to arrive at a consensus on what has been sensed. The network then finds the best path through the available nodes to relay this information to the control centre. This biological principle is being tested in the landslide detection system. A prototype network of geological sensors has been installed in the Idduki rainforest of Kerala, India, a region vulnerable to landslides in the monsoon season. 'Our Indian partners have buried sensors in the terrain, with the capability of monitoring the humidity and porosity of the terrain and the acceleration forces,' Barbarossa says. 'The sensors are then linked to a satellite which gathers the data and conveys them to the control centre.' The network includes 12 geological sensors connected to 15 wireless sensor nodes spread over three hectares."

For more information about this project, here is a selection of documents to read.

Sources: ICT Results, August 25, 2008; and various websites

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