Archive for the ‘Organizations & companies’ Category

When to share the raw data & when not to

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Russ Nelson sends this nomination:

This website encourages people to publish the raw data directly from their hydrologic sensors. Seems to me like they’re the poster child for open source sensing.

For scientific purposes, sharing the raw data (in addition to any interesting conclusions) is the way to go. In sensing situations where there are privacy concerns, which may not occur in the case of hydrologic data, an open source design process might involve not sharing all the raw data. Figuring out which cases are which will be a challenge! Thanks for the pointer, Russ. —Chris Peterson

Tracking the sensor revolution, for big bucks or for free

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Wireless Sensor Networks report cover

Tracking what’s happening with sensors today is an intimidating task. If you have US$2700 you can get a big report on Wireless Sensor Networks from Bharat Book Bureau, which appears to be based in India. If you don’t have this amount to spare, you can get a feel for what’s happening by just reading the long ad for the report, including the detailed table of contents. The summary has helpful orientation material:

Many now refer to traditional active RFID as First Generation. Examples of this include the device that opens your car from a distance and the device in your car windshield that uses a battery to incur and record non-stop tolling charges. Another example is the widespread tracking of military supplies and assets by electronically recording when they have been near an electronic device that reads the tag using radio waves. Real Time Location Systems RTLS, that continuously interrogate the tag from a distance, are called Second Generation active RFID and WSN is called Third Generation because it works in yet another completely different manner to provide its unique benefits…

Progress is now rapid and the much smaller size of the latest WSN tags is one indication of this. While the original concept was for billions or even trillions of tags the size of dust, the first ten years of development of USN has more often seen expensive tags, some the size of a videotape or, more recently, palm sized. However, further miniaturisation and cost reduction are now imminent.

The ToC lists many intriguing projects and companies worth a web search. There is a section on Impediments, which includes privacy concerns as the first listing. We can help with that! —Chris Peterson

Quick intro to Ubiquitous Sensor Networks

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

For a 25-minute slide-show-and-lecture intro to this topic from an industry perspective, check out Ubiquitous Sensor Networks: The benefits of smart dust and mesh technology by Joy Weiss of Dust Networks. Her presentation helps get across why these systems are arriving so fast.

Joy Weiss photo from ETC Conference

The Economist on mobile phone sensing pluses & minuses

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Alexandra Carmichael, co-founder of the open source health research site CureTogether, brings our attention to a piece in The Economist summarizing *some* of the current work on sensing using mobile phones. It concludes:

The technology is probably the easy part, however. For global networks of mobile sensors to provide useful insights, technology firms, governments, aid organisations and individuals will have to find ways to address concerns over privacy, accuracy, ownership and sovereignty. Only if they do so will it be possible to tap the gold mine of information inside the world’s billions of mobile phones.

This may be true, but these projects seem to be moving ahead in any case… —Chris Peterson

Open Source Sensing Initiative officially launched

Monday, June 8th, 2009

from the press release:

Open Source Sensing Initiative Launched
Preserving security *and* civil liberties in the Sensor Age

Palo Alto, CA — June 8, 2009 — A new open source-style project to promote Open Source Sensing has been started, with the goal of bringing the benefits of a bottom-up, decentralized approach to sensing for security and environmental purposes.

“The intent of the project is to take advantage of advances in sensing to improve both security and the environment, while preserving — even strengthening — privacy, freedom, and civil liberties,” said Christine Peterson, coiner of the term ‘open source software.’ “We have a unique opportunity to steer today’s emerging sensing/surveillance technologies in positive directions, before they become widespread.”

“Cheap, ubiquitous sensing has the potential to turn the worlds of privacy and civil rights upside-down,” said Brad Templeton, a futurist and civil rights activist who chairs the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “No easy solution stands out, but the quest for an answer to these problems — by learning from the bottom-up approaches of the open source community — may provide some water in the desert.”

Participation is welcome from individuals and organizations, both non-profit and for-profit. The project is coordinated by Foresight Institute, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization focused on transformative technologies.

Link to website:

About Foresight Institute
Foresight Institute is a leading think tank and public interest organization focused on transformative future technologies. Founded in 1986, its mission is to discover and promote the upsides, and help avoid the dangers, of nanotechnology, AI, biotech, and similar life-changing developments. Foresight provides balanced, accurate and timely information to help society understand nanotechnology through publications, public policy activities, roadmaps, prizes, and conferences.

Christine Peterson
tel +1 (650) 289-0860 ext 255
or use Contact email form at

ISO Sensor Network group drafts & Sensorpedia

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Sent by Kevin Keck, longtime Foresight member:

I just happened to have been reminded this week that ISO/IEC JTC1 currently has an active Study Group on Sensor Networks (SGSN). The comment period on the attached documents has closed, but they’ll be having their fourth meeting in Oslo, Norway, 29 June – 3 July 2009, and there’s mention in the second of an email discussion group that was to be resumed in March. These documents were distributed widely for comment, so you should be able to redistribute them further without any problem.

Also, have you heard of Sensorpedia?

Anyone wishing to see the documents, use the Contact form on this site to request them. And we had not seen Sensorpedia, a project of Oak Ridge National Lab, but it’s on the blog roll now. Thanks, Kevin! —Chris Peterson

Open Mobile Consortium aims at the “bottom billion”

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Open Mobile Consortium officially launched yesterday. From the press release:

The Open Mobile Consortium today launched its global development community to help organizations working towards social good to better collaborate and share mobile phone-based technologies. The OMC’s open source software tools help organizations to better serve the health, humanitarian and development needs of the “bottom billion,” the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of the world…

OMC members share a vision that by working together to drive grassroots mobile technology innovation in some of the most challenging, resource-poor environments in the world, they will create a simple, flexible, and reliable set of technology that enable to individual and organizations anywhere in the world to effect social change.

OMC looks on track to succeed at the first part of our goal here at Open Source Sensing: maximizing the benefits of these new abilities. Given the vulnerability of their target users, perhaps we can assist with the second part, minimizing the downsides. “Social change” comes in more than one flavor… —Chris Peterson

DARPA integrating sensor data on ‘elusive targets’

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Nathan Hodge of Wired brings us news of DARPA’s plans for sensing:

It means stitching together information collected by different sensors to track a moving object.

Darpa’s 2009 strategic plan offers a fascinating overview of the different approaches the agency is taking to better track and identify these elusive targets. Some of these, like the Forester foliage- penetrating radar, tackle a specific problem: detecting enemy troops moving under the cover of dense jungle canopy. But another program, called NetTrack, would provide more persistent reconnaissance by linking together and comparing information from different sensors to track a target, even if it moves behind a solid obstruction.

The NetTrack overview on the Darpa website gives few details, but the strategic plan gives a better idea of how it might work. Using software tools, the system could stitch together information from a variety of sensors (synthetic aperture radar, optical, video, acoustic sensors, moving target indicators), and hand off to the right platform when appropriate. For instance, if a Predator lost a video feed on a vehicle that entered a forest, the networked system would cue a laser radar sensor to search for the target. Fusing or comparing sensor information can also help map out better routes for surveillance aircraft to ensure full-time coverage.

One big issue for us will be the extent to which the open source sensing principles apply to military sensors. Controversial! —Chris Peterson

Citizen-powered sensing of the environment

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Just out this Monday:

A new paper, “Participatory Sensing: A Citizen-powered Approach to Illuminating the Patterns That Shape our World,” commissioned by the Foresight & Governance Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, outlines how existing technologies in today’s mobile phones and web services enable new approaches to citizen science. The paper presents scenarios for how these techniques might improve environmental protection and personal healthcare…

Central to the concept is that individuals decide what data to collect and the extent to which it is aggregated and shared. The hardware and software are specifically designed for users to have this control.

Funded by the EPA and prepared by the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at UCLA, this sounds like an encouraging report. Of course, it’s a long path from this to a publicly-deployed system, and getting that system to prevail over less-open competitors, but having CENS and the Wilson Center pushing for this is a good start.

Oddly, a quick search of this 20-page PDF for the phrase “open source” found no instances. It’s surprising that a report like this could be written without using this term at all. Perhaps it was regarded as too technical; the report appears to be aimed at a non-technical readership. Or perhaps the authors are not assuming that the system should be entirely open source or source-available, in which case there may be an opportunity for us to help get these requirements included in future system descriptions.

Check out the graphics at the top of the Foresight & Governance Project page: that molecular nanotech bearing should look familiar to Foresight members and other nano trackers! —Chris Peterson

TinyOS Alliance: an ally for us?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

As explained on their website, TinyOS is:

an open-source operating system designed for wireless embedded sensor networks…The TinyOS community has grown to include several thousand developers and users in dozens of countries, plus hundreds of companies, universities, and government institutions. It has built a broad technology base for wireless embedded networks in an open, informal collaboration largely rooted at the University of California, Berkeley.

This group’s focus appears to be almost all technical, which is not surprising.  But might they share our broader goals?  Part of their mission is “promotion of the technology, the community, and the impact of networked embedded systems.”

Of course they must mean by this the *positive* impact of such systems: exactly our goal here at this project.  Perhaps they would be open to some kind of collaboration? —Chris Peterson