Government Technology

Next-Generation RFID Network Swarms for Attention



December 8, 2008 By

Photo: Hanan Potash, chair of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Central Texas Section of the Joint Communications and Signal Processing Chapter

Q&A

Ultra-Cheap Network Swarming for Attention

Bees can't talk in the traditional sense -- unless you believe comedian Jerry Seinfeld's 2007 animated comedy, Bee Movie, to be real. But scientists have discovered bees are effective communicators of life-essential information, such as the direction of a food source. The insects also serve as inspiration for emerging technologies called "wireless hive networks." Texas Technology talked to engineer Hanan Potash, chair of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Central Texas Section of the Joint Communications and Signal Processing Chapter, about the practical application of this new technology.

What exactly is a wireless hive?

It's [a network] of devices that are intelligent and are basically communicating with each other. They have protocols of communicating with each other. Believe it or not, there are only two animals on the planet that can give direction to each other. A mother bear can lead her cub to the food, but only a human and a bee can actually give directions. When a bee goes back to the hive, it goes through a dance, which conveys to the other bees the direction of the food, the distance and type of food.

What combination of technologies are hived networks built upon?

Now there is a whole bunch of technologies being developed. New technologies called "printed electronics" are around the horizon. They will be about the size of a postage stamp.

Another is called the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, which is based on a Nobel Prize-winning invention of polymer that could actually conduct electricity. Those are the fundamentals of some new technology, like OLED display coming up from Sony.

People have been pushing RFIDs [radio frequency identification], but the problem is RFID has a silicon chip, which costs about $1.50. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been pushing farmers to tag all of their animals. Farmers just don't want to pay between $1.50 and $2.50 for those tags -- for cows and goats, never mind chickens. However, when does [cheaper] technology become a reality? RFID is a very complex integrated device. It has an antenna, logic, memory, a sensor and so forth.

Will [a combination of these technologies] become available in the marketplace within the next five years? Absolutely. I wouldn't be surprised if they show up within a couple of years.

If hive devices were used along the Texas-Mexico border to monitor crossings, would they be buried in the ground?

No, you would just drop them from the air. It would look like 2x2-inch or 4x4-inch pieces of paper. They'd be a couple cents apiece. With what happens with flood and deterioration, you would just send an airplane once a month and re-seed them.

How would you collect the data from the devices?

They would "talk" to each other by relay. You have some -- let's assume, often every mile -- a real computerized collection point, but the information goes by information hopping, like people talking. The hive device [handles] local processing during the information routing determination, so that it's not just a bunch of dumb devices with one central computer.

Pattern recognition is something that [hive] technology can push, and it's available today.

 

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Comments

Mike Koutnik    |    Commented December 15, 2008

The concept of "hive networks" portrayed in this article is very intriguing. But I found it ironic that the notion of tossing scads of 2"x2" hive network devices along the Texas border -- on a monthly basis -- was described in the same email newsletter that touts sustainable green initiatives. Areas of the globe are already overwhelmed by intentional and unintentional waste (see for instance, Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us"). If only for future generations, we to at least need take a hard look at use of devices like that suggested in this article, as well as nano-technology devices, to understand the impact they will have on our world.

Mike Koutnik    |    Commented December 15, 2008

The concept of "hive networks" portrayed in this article is very intriguing. But I found it ironic that the notion of tossing scads of 2"x2" hive network devices along the Texas border -- on a monthly basis -- was described in the same email newsletter that touts sustainable green initiatives. Areas of the globe are already overwhelmed by intentional and unintentional waste (see for instance, Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us"). If only for future generations, we to at least need take a hard look at use of devices like that suggested in this article, as well as nano-technology devices, to understand the impact they will have on our world.

Mike Koutnik    |    Commented December 15, 2008

The concept of "hive networks" portrayed in this article is very intriguing. But I found it ironic that the notion of tossing scads of 2"x2" hive network devices along the Texas border -- on a monthly basis -- was described in the same email newsletter that touts sustainable green initiatives. Areas of the globe are already overwhelmed by intentional and unintentional waste (see for instance, Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us"). If only for future generations, we to at least need take a hard look at use of devices like that suggested in this article, as well as nano-technology devices, to understand the impact they will have on our world.


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