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Wireless Sensors Monitor Mobile Machines

Wireless sensors can help companies monitor mobile equipment and environments too large to be outfitted with wired sensors.
By Mark Roberti
The U.S. Navy has been placing RFID sensors inside containers used to store spare aircraft engines and sensitive electronic components. If the moisture level within the container gets too high, it could damage the engine or components. Therefore, an alert is sent so that someone can take action.

BP has tested wireless sensors to monitor motors on one of its oil tankers. The sensors measured the motors' vibration, and when the vibration exceeded a predefined limit, that information was conveyed through the ad hoc wireless sensor network to a host system that alerted engineers on the ship to take a look at the motor and performance preventive maintenance.

Sensors can also be used to monitor the environment by providing readings at individual locations in a larger area. Microsoft's Global Foundation Services division, which oversees the platform the company uses to provide its online services, is deploying a wireless sensor network intended to bring visibility into the firm's data centers, and to reduce energy wasted in keeping a large room of IT equipment cooler than necessary.

GE Sensing's RF ValProbe helps pharmaceutical and life sciences companies monitor temperature for regulatory- and quality-compliance purposes. The wireless sensor nodes with built-in memory storage could be placed in a walk-in cooler for storing vaccines, and could collect and report data at intervals ranging from every 10 seconds to once per minute.

Why not just employ thermometers to measure temperature and moisture sensors to detect the amount of water in the ground? Because golf courses would have to pay an army of people to take soil readings three times a day on a golf course covering 150 square acres.

By contrast, you could deploy a wireless sensor network that could capture that information continuously without any labor cost. The systems can be deployed relatively cheaply, because mesh-networked sensors don't require a lot of infrastructure—you don't need a lot of readers, because data is transmitted from one sensor to another until it reaches a node that communicates with the host system.

The future of business is all about collecting and sharing more information more quickly, and allowing people and systems to react to the data in near-real time. Wireless sensors are going to play a big role.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.

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