In the current technology trend, we are witnessing a lot of products to be significantly compact in size, yet having applications which are intricate in nature. This is true, particularly when it comes to the electronics industry. Today, we use USB drives with over 1TB storage that are the size of an eraser. On similar lines, today, we also have cameras with sensors and communication mechanism that are as tiny as a grain of salt. These tiny devices are known as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which are also called motes. And the system consisting a number of motes working together is called Smart Dust. These motes can be used in a number of applications. Before jumping to the applications, let’s understand what Smart Dust actually is.
What is Smart Dust?
Smart Dust comprises of many small wireless microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). MEMS are tiny devices that have cameras, sensors, and communication mechanism to transmit the data to be stored and processed further. These small devices are also called as motes. They generally range from 20 micrometers up to a millimeter in size. They are usually connected to a computer network wirelessly and are distributed over a specific area to accomplish tasks, usually sensing through RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology.
Smart Dust encompasses nano-structured sensors which can automatically assemble, align, sense, and report about its local environment. They are very difficult to detect, and once deployed, it is even more difficult to get rid of them. These particles are so tiny and light that they can remain suspended in the air like ordinary dust particles. They can also be swept away or displaced by air currents.
The primary features of motes are:
- Motes are capable of measuring light, position, stress, acceleration, pressure, humidity, vibration, and sound. The data is transferred from mote to mote until it reaches the transmission node.
- They collect and integrate data, as required, for the task from many miniature sensors.
- They are capable of analyzing the data as collected by the sensors, which is specified by the system controls. Communicate the result of these analyses to other motes and the base system station.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Smart Dust
Some of the advantages of Smart Dust are as follows:
- The small size of particles makes it possible for them to be positioned in narrow areas.
- Can work without human intervention and are alert 24*7, when certain conditions are met.
- Can be programmed to monitor a variety of ecosystems in many industries.
- Dramatically reduces human resources cost and increases safety and compliance.
As with all technologies, there are certain disadvantages to Smart Dust as well:
- Privacy is a primary concern. Since the particles are so small and difficult to detect, it is feasible to collect information about people without their knowledge and consent.
- High cost.
- They could have an adverse effect on the environment as there will be numerous dust-sized particles in the air around us.
Applications of Smart Dust
Smart Dust finds applications in various industries and projects wherein data needs to be collected and analyzed without disturbing the ecosystem and any human involvement. Some of the applications are as follows:
In the Transport Sector
In transportation, smart Dust is used only on occasions of transporting perishable goods, animals, and any valuable dispatches among others.
- Transportation of perishable goods
Perishable goods deteriorate fast and need special conditions to be preserved in. While transporting such goods, certain conditions such as temperature, humidity, vibrations, dust, and aeration need to be controlled. Smart Dust helps in monitoring and maintaining these predefined conditions for those particular commodities. In case of malfunctioning of equipment, the system signals to the base system regarding the same.
- Transportation of animals
This is particularly important because it involves taking individual precautions during transportation. Smart Dust helps with monitoring the health of the animals along with controlling the conditions such as humidity, temperature, etc. according to the weather as necessary.
- Transportation of valuable goods
Valuable goods can include a wide variety of products, from precious minerals to fragile sculptures. Monitoring the transportation of these goods would mean keeping a check on the conditions maintained inside the wagon or any change in transportation conditions. These could mean any damage to the goods or the transportation vehicle during conveyance, change in the settings inside the wagon, etc.
- Smart Dust can be used to monitor activities in remote or inaccessible areas.
- It can also be used to keep a tab on enemy movement in cases where it is not feasible to send drones or humans.
- Smart Dust can also help alert our troops about poisonous gas or dangerous substance in the air and signal them to leave the premises.
- Smart Dust can be installed in factories to monitor the condition of equipment at all times and alert if there happens to be an issue with the equipment, This helps in avoiding any probable accidents.
- Computers can be programmed to turn off the lights and the AC in empty offices.
- AC can be automatically turned on and off in the server room if the server becomes too hot.
A mote can be glued to each of the fingertips. The accelerometer will sense the orientation and motion of each of the fingers. This along with the MEMS augmented-reality heads-up display, your entire computer I/O would be invisible to everyone around you.
The motes can be programmed to monitor the temperature and humidity in the soil. This can protect the crops from any damage. It can also be used to monitor plant growth so that we can determine what stage of the cultivation process the plant is in.
With so many applications of Smart Dust, it should come as no surprise that it is the technology for the future. It will need some more innovations to ensure it is 100% accurate and efficient at what it does. But it definitely will be in use a lot more.