Chapter 3

Wireless Sensor Networks: Technology Overview 1

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) started as a wild academic idea that turned into a very commercially relevant technology. This class of wireless networks has received significant attention in the last decade because of the unprecedented operational conditions it offers. From a number of proof-of-concept demonstrations, WSNs have evolved into a highly reliable, commercialized technology.

From solely sensing the environment, WSNs have evolved to become increasingly integrated with the Internet. Complete standards-based communication stacks are appearing, which enable tiny wireless devices to reliably form a communication mesh, with protocols running on this mesh enabling end-to-end IP connectivity. WSNs are the enabling technology that will help shape what tomorrow’s Internet of Things (IoT) looks like.

3.1. History and context

The history of WSNs is fascinating: from extremely smart scientists solving head-banging problems, to marketing people showing once more that (deceptively) simple solutions are the ones that have the most commercial potential.

3.1.1. From smart dust to smart plants

The smart dust concept, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project funded in 1997, started from the desire to make micro-robots using micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology. In 1992, it was clear that three different technologies were following exponential curves down to zero cost: sensing (driven by the MEMS revolution); ...

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