Saic, Hewlett-Packard, Ge, and Others: the Business Case for Wireless Sensor Networks

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REAL WORLD 3 SAIC, Hewlett-Packard, GE, and Others: The Business Case for Wireless Sensor Networks Some big companies are trying to make the worldand almost everything in it-smarter. Science Applications International Corp. (SAlC), the big government IT contractor, is developing technology for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security that could use hundreds of tiny, wireless sensors packed with computing power to help secure U.s. borders, bridges, power plants, and ships by detecting suspicious movements or dangerous cargo and radioing warnings back to a command center. BP pic, the world's second-largest independent oil company, aims to knock down the cost of monitoring equipment at a Washington State oil refinery, from thousands of dollars per measurement to hundreds, by replacing big, dumb, wired sensors with wireless ones in a network. And Hewlett-Packard is experimenting with wireless networked sensors at a warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee, trying to reinvent how companies manage the flow of goods. A prototype wireless network of small video-camera sensors hooked to image-recognition software works in concert with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to make sure inventory is put in the right place. The cameras track goods as they move through the warehouse, and those images get matched with RFID tag numbers that describe them. Wireless sensor devices, or "motes," package together a circuit board with networking and application software; interfaces to sensors that can detect changes in temperature, pressure, moisture, light, sound, or magnetism; and a wireless radio that can report on their findings-all powered by a pair of AA batteries. Enabled by the fusion of small, low-cost chips, low-powered radios, and the spread of wireless networking, motes are a giant leap ahead of traditional sensors that for decades have measured everything from temperature in buildings to factory machines' vibrations. Those sensors require wiring to electrical...
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