Many attempts have been made and are underway for implementing energy harvesting systems for powering the low power wireless sensor networks. It will be really interesting to explore a bit on these systems too
Chuck, I hear different numbers all the time, but I think people expect a fairly functional (8-bit? 16/32? ADC?) microcontroller available in high volume for well under $1, say in the 30 to 50 cent range. Whether the low end is feasible....
Loring, I agree that one of the main things holding back widespread use is the competing standards. When I worked for an OEM, the customers always had some other idea in mind (and a lot of times it was whatever was "hot" at the moment".
I still think the other issue is the power source. Once battery technology evolves to where you can get a reliable long-term (i.e., year+) or self-recharging source, this tech will really take off.
Loring: In the RFID world, we used tto hear about "nickel tags." The belief was that when nickel tags arrived, millions of products would suddenly use RFID. Is there a similar price-point goal for microcontroller-powered dust?
Probably the biggest problem in universal adoption is that there is no single protocol that is the equivalent of 802 LANs and the seven-layer OSI prototol stack in wireless sensor nets. ZigBee is the most common physical and data-link protocol, though there's a lot of RFID, Wireless HART, NFC, etc. Eventually, probably all such nets will use TCP/IP and have an IP address. But the IP connection is not obvious because the cost of nodes needs to be so low. Until the cost of microcontroller-powered "dust" drops, we may have quite a protocol mess out there!
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.