May 2005
Interview
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EMAIL INTERVIEW – Peter Stein & Ken Sinclair

Peter Stein, Vice President, Business Development and Marketing, Sensicast Systems

At the M2M/BuilConn show, March 2005, AutomatedBuilding.com caught up with Peter Stein, vice president business development and marketing for Sensicast Systems, a wireless mesh sensor networking company. Sensicast was highlighting its Environmental Monitoring System (EMS) through displaying a map of the conference center with real-time updating temperature readouts for each Session room and the Expo area.


Wireless Mesh Sensor Networking

Wireless mesh sensor networks have been created to remove not only the costs of wires, but also the complexity associated with large volume wireless sensor deployments. 

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Sinclair:  What is “wireless mesh sensor networking”?

Stein:  One of the most expensive elements of deploying a building automation system is the cost to pull power and data wiring.  Wireless mesh sensor networks have been created to remove not only the costs of wires, but also the complexity associated with large volume wireless sensor deployments.  Most of the sensors are battery-powered and the network permits “multi-hopping” (i.e., sensor readings being transmitted from node to node to node) so large, building-wide networks can be deployed with little or no wiring.  Also, installation of the network is trivial, because the wireless sensors are self-configuring – simply turn them on and they “join” the network with no manual intervention or configuration required

What’s more, these networks are more reliable than existing wireless technologies because they employ a “self-healing” aspect where the route through which the sensor data is transmitted can change automatically, depending on whether the data can get to its destination.  So, if a metal filing cabinet is suddenly placed in front of a node, the network will instantly redirect sensor readings to another path in order to ensure robust network connectivity. 

Sinclair:  It sounds as if this is an emerging technology?

Stein:  Actually, while most of the vendors in this business are less than five years old, the technology has been proven in real-world applications for quite some time.  Sensicast has had security and environmental monitoring installations of well over 100 nodes operating flawlessly for over a year – and these systems are used every day. 

New products embedded with this type of wireless technology are coming to market now.  It does take some time to design the technology into new product lines and release new products, which might make the technology seem newer then it actually is.  In the meantime, existing products are being deployed daily.  

Sinclair:  What were you demonstrating at M2M?

Stein:  At the M2M conference, we set up a 25 node network in less than an hour.  We placed nodes at the back of each break-out session room and placed some in the Expo areas.  And then we turned them on.  The result was a network that formed – three hop transmissions “deep” - within a few minutes and began transmitting temperature data back to our booth and to the main Expo screen.  Contrary to most demonstration installations, setting up these networks for shows is actually quite relaxing because it is so quick and easy to do.

Interestingly, during the first day of the conference, attendees were complaining the Session rooms were freezing – and their complaints were valid, with a few rooms bottoming out at 64°F!  Thankfully, show management heard their complaints and the next day, the rooms were set to a balmy 69°F!

Sinclair:  Do you only monitor temperature and humidity?

Stein:  Sensicast has the technology to monitor and control any type of sensor or actuator.  We have installed carbon dioxide sensors and RS232 serial sensors.  We also have finished products that provide wireless security inputs and outputs, analog sensor inputs and industrial temperature sensing (with more analog and digital sensor support on the way)! 

Sinclair:  Is the system a standalone system?

Stein:  We are a wireless device networking company.  Our value stems from the ability to wirelessly and reliably transmit data between devices and systems.  However, the data itself is meaningless unless it is interpreted, represented and acted upon in a way that is comfortable and convenient for the end-user.  That is why we have our SensiMesh Gateway and Software.  We strive to ensure that not only will the data get to the Gateway reliably, but it will seamlessly integrate with existing automation systems.

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