NIMS Team Wins One of Eight ITR awards from NSF for 2003
by Professor William Kaiser
As the growing community has pursued wireless sensor network
technology and applications, we encounter increasingly severe
challenges with regards to the long standing problems of energy
constraints and scalability. However, in applications within
natural and civil environments, we also now encounter the
problems of obstacles to sensing and vision. The complexity
of signal propagation in environments leads to a sensing uncertainty
with regards to events and objects in the environment. This
fundamentally limits our ability to identify and characterize
We have developed the Networked Infomechanical Systems (NIMS)
to address this directly. NIMS allows us to introduce the
physical reconfiguration that is neccessary for adapting physical
sensors. Now, with NIMS, we are able to add new sensors and
move sensors - we refer to this as Sensor Diversity. They
must be moved in such a way as to allow us to actually measure
sensing uncertainty - our term for this is Coordinated Mobility.
NIMS has many other new capabilities as well. For example,
NIMS devices can collect and transport physical samples from
the environment - so, we are now not limited to sensing only
with in-situ devices. We also plan to exploit the ability
for NIMS to replace relocate and replenish fixed nodes.
The most exciting aspect of NIMS is our team. We have an
exceptional group of undergraduate and graduate students.
Their accomplishment this summer was the development and deployment
of a NIMS system that operated in a forest field biology station,
the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility in Washington.
Our faculty team is multidisciplinary and exceptional. Professor
Greg Pottie (Electrical Engineering) provides the critical
Information Theory foundation that has lead to the concept
of a System Ecology. This is a large vision that embraces
a hierarchy of fixed and mobile wireless sensors with an intelligent
infrastructure. Deborah Estrin (Computer Science and CENS
Director), Mani Srivastava (Electrical Engineering), Gaurav
Sukhatme (Computer Science at USC), and John Villasenor (Electrical
Engineering) have developed the concepts of Sensor Diversity
and Coordinated Mobility for NIMS. This combines basic information
technology research in areas ranging from networked embedded
computing to robotics.
NIMS research is driven by novel applications. The field
biology expertise of Professor Phil Rundel (UCLA Department
of Organismic Biology) and Michael Hamilton (Director of the
James Reserve at UC Riverside) has been critical to the development
of our concepts for research in the natural environment. Here
we will be investigating fundamental phenomena in ecosystems
including carbon flux and other global chance indicators.
We will also be lead by Professors Richard Ambrose (School
of Public Health), Tom Harmon (Civil and Environmental Engineering
at UC Merced) and Jenny Jay (Civil and Environmental Engineering).
With their expertise we will also be able to focus on Public
Health applications of NIMS where distributed sensing and
sampling will be brought to bear on water resources. The NIMS
Public Health applications will focus on detection and characterization
of contaminants. In particular, NIMS sampling offers a unique
opportunity for automated detection of biological pathogens
through adaptive physical sampling of water.
The education goals for our NIMS program are already underway,
over 20 dedicated undergraduate researchers contributed to
our NIMS program this summer. Here, the infrastructure that
Dr. Sara Terheggen of CENS created has been invaluable. These
take advantage of the National Science Foundation programs
in this area. For example, this summer, through the Research
Experience for Teachers (RET) program, we will have Los Angeles
area teachers engaged with us in our research with the goal
of developing course modules for Grades 6-8 programs.
As NIMS develops, we constantly encounter new applications.
We expect that in addition to natural environmental science
and public health monitoring applications, NIMS will also
contribute to protection of national infrastructures.