'Invisible magic' in a Networked World

Nov 04, 2005

All the things we use in our everyday lives will one day be networked with one another. “They will perceive their environment, process data and communicate with one another,” explains computer researcher Friedemann Mattern in an interview in the Siemens research magazine Pictures of the Future. “That will seem like invisible magic to us.”

One of the visionary ideas from experts specializing in distributed systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) is a lawn sprinkler equipped with a sensor that measures moisture in the ground. At the same time, the sprinkler obtains a weather report from the Internet and uses this information to calculate when it should water the lawn, and how much water it should dispense.

Mattern is a firm believer in the fusion of microelectronics, sensor technology, new materials and wireless communications. “That automatically leads to ‘smart objects’ of this kind,” he says. We could, of course, continue to get by without networked objects, but “our pursuit of safety, status, comfort and entertainment will lead to a point where many such applications become accepted practice.” That’s because networking is what provides the real added value — just as the value of a human being is far greater than the sum of the cells in a person’s body.

The only technical obstacles the expert sees lie in the power supply for the devices. “In terms of resolving the energy problem — meaning lower power consumption and longer battery life — things are moving more slowly than I’d like,” Mattern says. And he doesn’t find the various networking scenarios ominous, because he believes we will never be entirely dependent on “intelligent things” – our environment will always be able to function without the help of intelligent systems.

Explore further: Seattle Sounders score with SQL Server and fitness-tracking technology

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pesticides linger longer in greenhouse crops

54 minutes ago

Researchers writing in the journal Chemosphere this week found that crops typically grown under glasshouses and poly-tunnels had higher levels and numbers of different pesticides in them than those typica ...

Winter-like temps can reduce tire pressure

1 hour ago

The polar plunge that has chilled much of the nation does more than bring out ice scrapers and antifreeze. It can trigger vehicles' tire pressure monitoring systems overnight, sending nervous drivers to dealers ...

Fountain of youth underlies Antarctic Mountains

1 hour ago

Time ravages mountains, as it does people. Sharp features soften, and bodies grow shorter and rounder. But under the right conditions, some mountains refuse to age. In a new study, scientists explain why ...

Recommended for you

Novel robotic walker helps patients regain natural gait

3 hours ago

Survivors of stroke or other neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson's disease often struggle with mobility. To regain their motor functions, these patients ...

Forging a photo is easy, but how do you spot a fake?

4 hours ago

Faking photographs is not a new phenomenon. The Cottingley Fairies seemed convincing to some in 1917, just as the images recently broadcast on Russian television, purporting to be satellite images showin ...

New battery technology for electric vehicles

4 hours ago

Scientists at the Canadian Light Source are on the forefront of battery technology using cheaper materials with higher energy and better recharging rates that make them ideal for electric vehicles (EVs).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.