Thursday, August 26, 2004

Wireless Networks for Measurement Applications

Recently, National Instruments held its annual user conference called NI Week. In this conference, new technologies related to wireless networking were demonstrated. Using Bluetooth and Wireless Lan technologies encapsulated in a series of "nodes", the demonstrator was able to bring measurements wirelessly from those nodes spread around the room. The elimination of wires enables many applications including automotive, aircraft, heating/air conditioning, machine condition monitoring, and more. The "nodes"on display were stackable, in that the user could choose from a variety of modules and then stack them like lego blocks to achieve the right mix of analog and digital channels.

From the attendees in the room, the main problems to be solved involved interference, security, cost of the network (when using cellular or satellite techniques) and the ubiquitous battery-life issue. Customer's requirements for powering the devices in the field ranged from 2 hour life spans up to 3 years. Ruggedization requirements also ranged from Not Required to Mil Std. and 5Gs.

It's clear that wireless networking has a wide range of uses and applications. The tools are starting to emerge to solve these applications cost-effectively. If you are working in this area, I would like to share insights gleaned from this technology demonstration event.

As always, if you know of an emerging technology, I am interested in hearing from you.

Hall T. Martin


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