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GE Sensing, Dust Networks to Develop Wireless Sensors

The first GE Sensing product is the RF ValProbe, designed to help pharmaceutical and life sciences companies monitor and validate environments—such as freezers and sterilization processes—for regulatory and quality compliance purposes.
By Beth Bacheldor
May 15, 2007GE Sensing has teamed up with Dust Networks to develop wireless sensors based on mesh network technology for a variety of industries.

The networks will leverage the Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol (TSMP) from Dust Networks. The Hayward, Calif., company provides wireless sensor networking products to GE Sensing and other original equipment manufacturers. GE Sensing manufactures a variety of sensing elements, devices, instruments and systems designed to help companies perform such functions as ultrasonic and gas-flow measurement, control-circuit protection and liquid-level detection.

TSMP, a proprietary networking protocol designed by Dust, is the foundation of the company's ultra-low-power wireless sensor networking technology. TSMP-based sensors contain RF transceivers utilizing mesh routing to create redundant and self-healing networks. This allows for continuous connections and reconfiguration around blocked paths by hopping from sensor to sensor (node to node) until it communicates with an RF receiver functioning as a gateway to a computer network. The wireless sensors form a self-organizing, multi-hop network for monitoring and control processes, physical attributes such as temperature and so forth. According to the company, current TSMP implementations operate at 2.4 GHz on IEEE 802.15.4 radios, and at 900 MHz on proprietary radios.

GE Sensing has opted to use mesh networking in a variety of current and upcoming products, says Tim Wortley, the firm's senior global product manager, because it provides networks with greater speed, confidence and reliability, minimizing the potential for data loss. The company plans to build products using TSMP for a range of industries, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, automotive, industrial, commercial, petrochemical and power generation.

"Pharmaceutical environments, while not the harshest of RF environments, can be difficult to form a reliable wireless network with the amount of stainless steel process equipment," says Wortley. "Mesh networks provide the level of redundancy and self-corrective infrastructure to work a potentially dynamic RF environment."

The first GE Sensing product to take advantage of Dust's TSMP will be the RF ValProbe, available next month. The RF ValProbe is designed to help pharmaceutical and life sciences companies monitor and validate environments—such as freezers and sterilization processes—for regulatory- and quality-compliance purposes. The product will include loggers (wireless sensor nodes with built-in memory storage) to monitor temperature and moisture conditions. For example, RF ValProbe sensors could be placed in a walk-in cooler for storing vaccines, and collect and report data at intervals ranging from every 10 seconds to once per minute. Each wireless sensor would pass on its temperature and humidity data, along with any information it receives from other wireless sensors in the network, to an adjacent wireless sensor up to about 300 feet away.

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