At Washington University in St. Louis, computer scientists have navigated a robot safely through a simulated fire and spotted a simulated fire by seeking out heat, using wireless sensor networks that employ software agents. Once the agent locates the fire, says a statement from the university, the agent clones itself, creating a ring of software around the fire.
A “fireman” can then communicate with this multifaceted agent through a PDA and learn where the fire is and how intense it is. Should the fire expand, the agents clone again and maintain the ring—an entirely different “ring of fire.”
Agents are specialized pieces of code that are self-contained and mobile. Wireless sensor networks are made up of tiny computers that can fit in the palm of a hand. They can run on simple AA batteries, sport an antenna and a sensor with a specialized duty of sensing the environment—temperature, magnetism, sound or humidity, for instance.
According to the university, Catalin Roman, PhD, the Harold B. and Adelaide G. Welge professor of computer science and department chair, developed middleware called Agilla, which enables the cloning of agents and their ringing ability. Roman believes that wireless sensor networks are poised to explode upon the world stage, similar to the way the Internet took off after the creation of the World Wide Web.
Want more information about this technology? Mobile Agent Middleware for Sensor Networks: An Application Case Study explains how the researchers use mobile agents and a sensor network to detect and track wildfire. The following two papers show how they use a sensor network for cargo monitoring:
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