Smart Dust devices are small wireless microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) that can detect everything from light to vibrations. It is a tiny dust size device with extraordinary capabilities. It encompasses a nano-structured silicon sensor that can spontaneously assemble, orient sense, and report on their local environment. This new technology combines sensing, computing, wireless communication capabilities, and autonomous power supply within the volume of only a few millimeters. It is very hard to detect the presence of the Smart Dust and it is even harder to get rid of them once deployed. Smart Dust is useful in monitoring real-world phenomena without disturbing the original process.
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The Key Components of Smart Dust
- A semiconductor laser diode and MEMS beam steering mirror for active optical transmission
- Corner Cube Retroreflector(CCR) for passive optical transmission
- Photodetector and receiver
- An optical receiver
- A signal processing and control circuitry
- A power source based on thick film batteries and solar cells.
Construction Of Smart Dust
The new trend of the 21st century is to provide the best adaptive features to the user in small packages as much as possible. This same trend is being followed in electronics technology and the enhanced features are being provided in smaller and smaller electronic devices. An example of this technology trend is electronic motes. These are so small and light in weight that they can remain suspended in the environment like an ordinary dust particle. Even the air currents can also move them in the direction of flow. The main features of motes are:
- Support the collection and integration of data from a variety of miniature sensors.
- Analyze the sensor data as specified by system-level controls. Wirelessly communicate the results of their analyses to other motes, system base stations, and the internet as specified by system automation.
- Motes are also sometimes referred to as smart dust. One mote is composed of a small, low powered and cheap computer connected to several sensors and a radio transmitter capable of forming ad hoc networks. The computer monitors the different sensors in a mote. These sensors can measure light, acceleration, position, stress, pressure, humidity, sound, and vibration. Data gathered are passed on to the radio link for transmission from mote to mote until data reaches the transmission node.
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Working Principle of Smart Dust
Smart Dust motes are run by microcontrollers. These microcontrollers consist of tiny sensors for recording various types of data. Timers are used to run these sensors. These sensors do the job of collecting the data. The data obtained are stored in its memory for further interpretations. It can also be sent to the base controlling stations.
CCR, which comprises three mutually perpendicular mirrors of gold-coated polysilicon, has the property that any incident ray of light is reflected back to the source provided that is incident within a certain range of angles centered about the cube’s body diagonal. The microfabricated CCR includes an electrostatic actuator that can deflect one of the mirrors at the kilohertz rate. Hence, the external light source can be transmitted back in the form of the modulated signal at kilobits per second. It can transmit to the bus only when the CCR body diagonal happens to point directly towards the bits, within a few tens of degrees
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Although a passive transmitter can be made more omnidirectional by employing several CCR”s oriented in different directions, at the expense of increased dust mote size.
There are the following main advantages to using Smart Dust.
For an industry:
- Improving safety, efficiency, and compliance
- Reducing system and infrastructure costs
- Increasing productivity
For farmers or farming purpose:
- Detecting the needs of the crop resulting in better fertilization management.
- It gives farmers better management of time.
- Reduction of inputs and Increase of outputs resulting in an increase in productivity.
For factories and plants:
- It automates many manual error-prone tasks that involve calibration and monitoring.
- Provide accurate data on motor health in order to perform more timely maintenance when needed
- Detection of corrosion in aging pipes before they leak
For an office environment:
- It eliminates wired routers entirely and replacing them with a single Smart Dust chip which would handle all hardware and software functions for distributed networks, using five times less power than conventional networks
- Smart Dust nodes can even be equipped with GPS receivers. Can be used to track the movements of visitors as they roam around the office to see if they are going to any restricted locations.
- A military application like monitoring activities in inaccessible areas, accompany soldiers and alert them to any poisons or dangerous biological substances in the air.
- Security and Tracking
- In the military, they can perform as a remote sensor chip to track enemy movements, detect poisonous gas or radioactivity.
There are many other smart dust applications apart from these.
Disadvantages of Smart Dust
There are a number of advantages of Smart Dust. But it also has a negative side too. Although the disadvantages seem much minor as compared with their advantages. But still, it is important to take them into consideration. These are:
One of the major disadvantages of Smart Dust is the privacy issue for organizations using it. Detecting even the most subtle changes, Smart Dust leaves little to the imagination. Smart Dust is a miniature sensors. They can record whatever you want them to record. Because this new technology is so small, people are scared that they would be spied on by companies.
That brings the main disadvantage to any company that would use Smart Dust. They would have to advise everybody who is part of the study or experiment. It could also bring ethical issues. For example, which employees would you let analyze the data that the sensors are giving and what information would they have access to. Privacy is likely going to be an ongoing and difficult debate in the coming years, and Smart Dust may be right at its center.
Although Smart Dust is gaining popularity in many fields, it remains costly to implement such a system in an organization. The little chips themselves saw their prices go down by a lot in recent years, however, implementing all the satellites and other elements needed may cost a company a lot of money.
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