EDUCATION PLUS

Amrita Labs develops wireless sensors



A.A. MICHAEL RAJ A.A. MICHAEL RAJA.A. MICHAEL RAJ

Weather forecasters depend on information from as many locations as possible in order to come out with reliable predictions. An abundance of data makes their mathematical calculations more accurate, with powerful computers crunching numbers literally at lightning speed.A wireless sensor network project being conducted by Amrita Research Labs, Amritapuri, Kollam, which is attached to Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Deemed University, holds the potential to make such weather prediction a lot more accurate."The project is supported by the Department of Science and Technology and has applications in the environmental sciences," said P. Jayaraj, Chief Technology Officer of the laboratory. "These sensors are small computers, powered by batteries that can last six months to one year. They record the information and send it out to different areas." One of the greatest advantages of the sensors is that they can be produced at low cost and placed at a number of vantage points spread over a wide area. There is no need for someone to go to each sensor and collect the information at regular intervals.

Programming of gadgets

Each gadget could be programmed to sense microclimatic conditions and the presence of hazardous material. Placed at vantage points, they blend into the environment and provide data on migratory birds. "Sensors can be used for drought sensing. They can be buried deep in the ground and will send out information about falling water levels," he observed.Mr. Jayaraj said that Amrita Research Labs had joined hands with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to carry out a distributed seismic signal capturing and processing system. Launched last year, the indigenous project will be completed in February this year. It will depend on 100 - 200 stations established at selected locations to collect seismic data and transmit the information through a satellite network to seismic centres that will do the processing and forecasting. The digitiser in the system would be replaced with the software produced by Amrita Research Labs.For best results, these automatic sensors that did not require any maintenance ought to be installed in isolated areas and not near the seacoast, busy highways or railway tracks where vibrations in the ground could come from non-seismic sources, both natural and artificial. He said the laboratory was also doing research in telematics, and bringing computers and communication technology together to make transport systems cheaper and safer. Fisherfolk could use satellite systems to accurately track their fishing nets. Transport operators could track good vehicles and long-distance passenger buses using similar techniques. It would be the most cost-effective method for large areas.General packet radio service and short-range wireless provided the communication link. Besides this, Amrita Research Labs was working on a project with the Department of Atomic Energy on developing an operating system kernel in accordance with the specifications laid down by the department.India should learn from the experience of the U.S., whose core of economic and political strength came from universities that educated business people and researchers. Silicon Valley had gained international fame because it was located close to two reputed universities, Berkeley and Stanford.

Research project

One of the principles at Amrita was that students ought to be involved in research projects so that they would learn from the experience, and especially from those who had come back to India after a stint with industries in the U.S. India was spending massive amounts on advanced technology every year. This could be reduced by indigenously developing the methods and techniques India needed.





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