Scientists build sensor networks for your missing pens

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Scientists build sensor networks for your missing pens

Have you seen my stapler?

CSIRO researchers have developed miniature sensors that track lab equipment, coffee mugs and staplers in the office.

Called Fleck Nano, the sensors build on CSIRO's existing Fleck technology that is being commercially produced for monitoring cows on farms.

Fleck sensors collect data like location and temperature. They form an ad-hoc mesh network, and communicate with static nodes and each other via radio waves.

CSIRO ICT Centre researcher Phil Valencia said they were similar to active RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, which also transmit signals autonomously.

"We're aiming to enable a level of ubiquitous sensing that hasn't been experienced yet and see how it impacts on day-to-day activities," Valencia said.

The current Fleck Nano prototype is slightly smaller than a 20 cent piece. Data is collected and accessed by custom software that uses drop-down boxes to ask questions like "Where is my coffee mug?"

Since the a battery attachment would significantly affect the size of the device, the researchers are currently looking into reducing the Fleck Nano's energy demands and ways to harvest energy from the environment.

The prototype cost $50 to manufacture. Valencia said a mass-produced device is likely to cost "orders of magnitude" less.

In future, Valencia said the technology could be integrated with machine learning algorithms that will allow for applications like kettles that automatically boil water as a coffee mug is carried to the kitchen.

"I think the future will be filled with that kind of stuff; we're just working towards getting there," he told iTnews.

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