World of Sensors vs Virtual World of Networks of Computer

A concept of information technology that has the potential to radically revolutionise the way we communicate and exchange information called Speckled Computing has been in existence at the University of Edinburgh. According to the Director of the Centre for Speckled Computing Professor D K Arvind, Speckled Computing is the culmination of a greater trend that collides with the once-separate worlds of computing and wireless communications with the emergence of a new class of information appliances. The past glory of the PDA bulging in the pocket, or the mobile phone nestling in one’s palm, and the post-modern equivalent might not be explicit after all. Rather, data sensing and information processing capabilities will fragment and disappear into everyday objects and the living environment.

At present there are sharp dislocations in information processing capability – the computer on a desk, the PDA/laptop, mobile phone, smart cards and smart appliances. “In our vision of Speckled Computing, the sensing and processing of information will be highly diffused – the person, the artefacts and the surrounding space, become, at the same time, computational resources and interfaces to those resources” iterated by Arvind. Surfaces, walls, floors, ceilings, articles, and clothes, when sprayed with specks (or “speckled”), will be invested with a “computational aura” and sensitised post hoc as props for rich interactions with the computational resources.

According to the researchers, Specks will be minute (around 1 mm3) semiconductor grains that can sense and compute locally and communicate wirelessly. Each speck will be autonomous, with its own captive, renewable energy source. Thousands of specks, scattered or sprayed on the person or surfaces, will collaborate as programmable computational networks called Specknets.

Speckled Computing will bring together aspects of research in distributed computation for resource-constrained devices, networked embedded systems, sensor networks, machine learning, wireless protocols, networked embedded systems, distributed algorithms, and internet of things, with applications principally in the areas of healthcare, digital media and environmental monitoring.

In the video Professor Arvind describes his research into new forms of miniature wireless information processing devices which combine sensing, data processing and wireless networking, and which will extend the future internet into the physical world.


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