HP plans a trillion-sensor global stethoscope
Hearing the heartbeat of the Earth
Getting the vision thing right is important for technology announcements and HP has it nailed, twinning a great vision with advances in its sensing technology.
Here's Peter Hartwell, a senior researcher at HP Labs: "With a trillion sensors embedded in the environment, all connected by computing systems, software and services, it will be possible to hear the heartbeat of the Earth, impacting human interaction with the globe as profoundly as the Internet has revolutionised communication." Okay Peter, we're paying attention now.
The meat of this concerns digital MEMS (micro-electrical-mechanical system) - accelerometers that signal a change in physical force impinging on them. They are built into sensors that detect acceleration, shock loading and vibration. Hard disk drives that park their heads when dropped use this technology. HP says its printer ink cartridges use it too. Its HP Labs has developed MEMS technology that's up to 1,000 times more sensitive than current high-volume MEMS.
It means they can detect and respond to flutters as well as shakes. That implies they can be used to better monitor the status of buildings and bridges, fault zones in the earth, mining operations and volcanoes. In fact, any application where detecting microscopically small vibration events or patterns is important.
HP says the technology involved nano-sensing research and uses fluidic MEMS technology, co-developed by HP Labs and its Imaging and Printing Group. It claims ultrasensitive, low-power "sensors based on this technology can achieve noise density performance in the sub 100 nano-g per square root Hz range". Such sensors "can be customised with single or multiple axes per chip to meet individual system requirements."
The vision thing then gets glued to commercial interests, with Ken Abbott - an HP emerging technology director - gleefully talking about how "this... positions HP to deliver sensing solutions and services on a global scale." HP also grandiloquently talks about "a new information ecosystem, the Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE)" - with a trillion new MEMS sensors dotted around the globe. ®
At some point, reality sets in
I will buy your first 1 million sensors if you will prove to me these sensors have a noise density of less than 100 ng/root Hz at a frequency that is useable in seismology, or structural monitoring and can be made practically in a MEMS device. Lesson for the day, Mr. Ken Abbott; the lab is clean and safe, the real world is not.
I'm serious about my offer! Send me a quote for 1 Million pieces and let's talk.
Every breath you take...
Every move you make. Every breath you take, they'll be watchin' you
old mrs davis has gas again.
I know that the old: "If a tree falls in a forest and nobody's around to hear it, does it make a sound?", is a thorny philosophical question with no satisfactory answer.
Bugging the entire planet to render the question moot as a solution seems like overkill to me.
there's already an open-sauce ad-hoc sensor network of Macbooks' accelerometers - I'm not making this up (iSeismograph) which uses the embedded Kionix KXM52-1050 three-axis accelerometer chip (dynamic range of +/- 2g and a bandwidth up to 1.5 KHz) WHY? I hear you scream , it's because Cupertino is in a wobbly bit of the planet, and quoting a 2008 paper directly "Because the MacBook laptop hardware provides an inexpensive sensor and data acquisition system, it can be placed in the field (such as mounted on a bridge) and used for real-time health monitoring applications." By health they mean BIG structure health etcetera and by mounting - I think it involves BIG clamps. However some Califrnians just leave their MB's on the table doing iSiesmo during the night...........so HP are going to buy a trillion MBP's??? ?????