by Julie Hanson

RFID: Dust Creates Tiny Sensors Called Motes

Sep 01, 20032 mins
Internet of ThingsRFID

Technology observers have been touting the coming proliferation of wireless sensors that will report all sorts of data about the stuff to which they are attached. Now researchers from Accenture say they are watching a Berkeley, Calif., company called Dust Inc. to see how it executes its plans to sell small electronic sensors called motes.

Motes are electronic devices comparable in size to a nine-volt battery, and they are on their way to being the heft of an aspirin tablet in a couple of years, says Kris Pister, Dust’s president and CEO. Motes contain a tiny computer, radio, sensors and a power supply, and they are designed to transmit data about location, temperature, vibration, light, sound and airflow.

In this scheme, one mote can contain several sensors to collect different kinds of data. The motes then form their own mesh network using wireless radio technology; getting the data from the sensor networks to a Dust database requires the use of network gateways.

The motes have the life expectancy of a decade. “They are asleep 99 percent of the time. They do communicate every second, but they can send information in five milliseconds,” says Pister. Starter kits of 50 to 100 motes cost between $2,500 and $5,000, Pister says, depending on the number of sensors per mote.

Pister cites applications such as monitoring HVAC systems in office buildings, petroleum pipelines and chemical supplies. Chad Burkey, a senior researcher at Accenture, figures the motes will be useful on the manufacturing floor. And the possibilities proliferate from there.