Friday, March 09, 2007

Moteiv’s FIRE – Intelligent Fire Information & Rescue Equipment

A new application for wireless sensor networks comes from a startup out of Berkeley called Moteiv which makes a wireless sensor network system for firefighters. Called FIRE, which stands for intelligent Fire Information & Rescue Equipment, it uses wireless sensor network technology to tell a firefighter where he is in a building even if visibility is obscured by smoke or fire. CNN ran a story on them recently. You can see the full video on YouTube here. The system monitors a building for smoke, fire, temperature, and other factors. It sends the signals to a laptop outside the building so commanders can see the position of their people and the condition of the building.

They offer three products. The Tmote Sky costs $78 per node and provides an 802.15.4 radio and sensors for temperature, humidity, and solar radiation. The Tmote Invent is a low-cost version of Tmote Sky and is designed for building automation applications. It comes with light, accelerometer, sound, and humidity sensors. They also offer the Tmote Connect which is a gateway device. All of the devices come with a TinyOS software support.

To enable software for their devices they took a copy of the open source TinyOS and made a modified version called Boomerang. You can get a free download here. In my visit to Berkeley last week several researchers indicated they use TinyOS because it’s open source and free, but they found support less than standard in some cases.

Moteiv appears to be filling a niche for those who want an unbundled solution such as what Crossbow offers. In researching Moteiv I came across an interesting paper in which the authors take a spreadsheet approach to managing the nodes in a sensor network. They used Moteiv nodes for their application. An Excel spreadsheet was modified to perform data acquisition and processing, programming the deployed nodes, and managing the run-time system of the network. I think this approach highlights the nature of managing a wireless sensor network as a technical data management challenge rather than a programming challenge.


Best regards,
Hall T.

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