Modern researchers are working on smart dust systems that could enable major innovations in medicine, scientific research, and the heavy industries.
Smart dust context
Smart dust is a tiny device that often operates alongside dozens to hundreds to thousands of other such devices, and each one can function as an individual component of a larger computing system. Smart dust consists of a range of small wireless microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), like robots, cameras, sensors, and other communication mechanisms. MEMS are eventually connected to a computer network wirelessly to analyze the data procured through radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
MEMS, also called motes, collects data, including light, temperature, vibrations, acceleration, pressure, sound, stress, and humidity. This data is transferred from one microelectromechanical system to another until it reaches the transmission node. The main functions of MEMS include (1) collecting data, (2) processing the data with a computer system wirelessly, (3) and communicating the data to the cloud or other MEMS wirelessly.
Some researchers argue that smart dust represents the next evolution for the Internet of Things (IoT). These devices have become more advanced, and are being integrated everywhere from customer technologies like smart thermostats to corporate sector products like small sensors that monitor oil well production.
However, as per Gartner's Hype Cycle, smart dust technologies will take over a decade to achieve mainstream use and revolutionize the IoT on a commercial scale.
Because of their weight and size, smart dust devices can be easily positioned in narrow and remote spaces to gather detailed information in varying situations. Over the past few years, smart dust technology has proven highly beneficial in different industries and research work. For example:
- Smart dust could also be positioned inside the human body to check the recovery of damaged organs and broken bones.
- These tiny MEMS could also be used in the agriculture industry to monitor plants' varying needs, such as pest control and watering times.
- Researchers at UC Berkeley have proven that neutral dust can analyze brain functions.
Questions to comment on
- What other applications do you think smart dust technology will be applied to over the next decade?
- How should governments regulate this technology to limit its misuse?