Wireless networks for sensor applications are required to support an adequate data throughput, range, node density and must consume as little power as possible. The Bluetooth specification has been designed for low power, medium data rate, cable replacement solutions and is therefore useful for wireless sensor networks. However it has a limitation of a maximum number of eight active devices per Bluetooth network (piconet). To be useful in wireless sensor networks a Bluetooth piconet requires a means to communicate to more than the maximum of eight active devices. This paper demonstrates techniques for expanding the usefulness of Bluetooth for wireless sensor networks. This has been done by using multiple access points, sharing the active member addresses of the Bluetooth piconet and utilising multiple piconet and scatternet tree structures. A comparison of existing piconet handoff mechanisms has been conducted and these have been evaluated for feasibility with the available hardware's limitations. Scatternet and piconet sharing mechanisms have been developed that allow a Bluetooth structure to support more than eight devices. These structures have been implemented with existing Bluetooth hardware and are compared via theoretical simulation and experimental results. The developed network of multiple Bluetooth access points combined with the developed Bluetooth structures provides several wireless networks suitable for sensor applications.
In this paper the operation of capacitive soil moisture sensors are modeled using an electrical circuit analogue. This model aims to predict the response of capacitive sensors for a variety of soil types, moistures, soil conductivity and sensor operating frequencies. The model is extensively validated under a variety of conditions for a variety of sensor circuits and measurement techniques. The deposition of a conducting film composed of clay-like soil material over the sensing surface of a soil moisture sensor is shown to be the cause of hysteresis when the sensor is operated at low frequencies (10KHz). As the frequency is increased (10MHz) the effect of the conducting film becomes insignificant. Surface chemistry analysis techniques were used to identify the soil deposits on the conducting film. This research is motivated by the design of a small disposable sensor printed on a flexible plastic substrate measuring soil moisture as a function of the number of point contacts terminating on the insulated sensor electrode. In controlled conditions the sensor exhibits a linear response across most of its range to water content changes, but in some soils the reading becomes "stuck" on a high reading and does not return to a lower reading until the soil has dried considerably.
The use of environmental sensors in agriculture and precision agriculture applications is becoming more common, although implementation strategies and capital costs prohibit widespread adoption by many in the industry. Typical costs for agricultural monitoring systems can be in the tens of thousands of dollars per site. This paper presents low cost, wireless sensor nodes and a corresponding low power network. The nodes use biodegradable plastic to house the sensor, support electronics, RF transceiver and a 433 MHz antenna. In this paper the antenna design and network topology is discussed together with the propagation problems associated with a field environment in which the vegetation changes weekly. It is envisaged that such a platform could be ploughed in to the field at the end of its working life. The total cost of construction of the prototype platform is approximately $US10 per sensor. A communication protocol was also developed to allow many of these devices to be installed simultaneously and for the transmission of collected data and dynamic configuration and reprogramming. A receiver system allows for the collation and presentation of collected data. Low cost soil moisture sensors were coupled to the platform and installed in a commercial nursery wholesaler. Field trials of the network were successfully conducted.
This paper reviews current piezo-resistive characteristics pertaining to conventional and novel piezo-resistive strain transducers. These characteristics govern the performance of the sensor node. In this application, low power consumption, high signal to noise ratio (SNR), sensitivity and resolution in the sensor node are optimized for a distributed sensor network. In this low frequency application at < 100 Hz, it is found that electrical noise can limit the nominal resistance of the strain gauge to be used. By reducing the nominal resistance to lower the SNR, power consumption is increased. Optimization of the nominal resistance for excess noise and other material parameters must take place. Typical values have been used to explore the SNR over a range of resistance values and against frequency. The trade-off is also optimized in the volume and sheet resistance of the piezo-resistive material. Irreversible phenomena such as ageing and material creep are responsible for very low frequency drift (approaching DC) with respect to time and temperature. It is found that this drift is material specific and can be numerically compensated in situ. Maximizing sensitivity of the transducer is desirable to reduce the overhead at the sensor front-end. This overhead is shown to be dependant on gauge factor and the configuration of the strain-sensing circuit. The configuration of the strain-sensing circuit impacts on cost, complexity and SNR.
In a sensor employing changes in capacitance the introduction of two additional reference electrodes can assist in the minimization and correction of errors introduced in the manufacturing process and from changes in environmental conditions. The two extra electrodes that reflect the maximum and minimum values of the measuring electrode are constructed during the same lithographic process and in close proximity to the active electrode. In preliminary trials of 79 sensors the uncorrected error in reading was nearly 20% of full scale and dropped to 4% of full scale after applying the correction. The technique with support electronics printed on flexible substrates allow the sensor to be small, integrated and “smart”.
The ultimate goal of micro-systems is ad hoc arrays of wireless, self powered intelligent sensors which self-assemble on installation and adjust to a changing number of sensors and/or changing sensor location. The sensors and the network infrastructure must be low cost, disposable (recyclable), unobtrusive and these ultimate goals impact on all aspects of sensor design and network protocols. In this paper, a number of strategies employed to achieve these goals are outlined. In particular, some recent technological developments have facilitated more efficient sensor networks. These include smart antennas, low power electronics and sensors, creative methods of data reduction and "tipping bucket" data streaming. Sensor networks with lifetimes of more than one year are now possible.
A wireless network of multiple sensor nodes for monitoring large numbers of mobile agents is described and investigated. Wireless monitoring provides time critical information from a number of data sources allowing near real-time analysis of the collected data. The developed wireless network provides a moderate data rate, is able to support many wireless nodes and is a low power solution. Novel network structures have been developed to satisfy all of these requirements.
This paper evaluates a number of currently available wireless communication protocols, concluding that a Bluetooth wireless network satisfies the above criteria. To support a large number of devices, topologies using inter-piconet and piconet sharing methods have been developed. These network structures are outlined in detail and have been developed with the current Bluetooth hardware limitations in mind. The proposed wireless networks have been developed to be implemented with current Bluetooth hardware. A summary of network performance is included for each developed network structure, and from these figures an appropriate network structure has been chosen that satisfies the requirements of a wireless sensor network for monitoring mobile agents.
The performance of low noise amplifiers (LNAs) is limited by the quality factors of the inductors used. Realizing fully integrated LNAs and other radio frequency (RF) circuits requires the development of techniques to improve the quality factors of on-chip inductors. It was found that the maximum attainable tank-Q of on-chip square spiral inductors for a given technology remained fairly constant and independent of the number of turns and the width of the tracks. Based on this on-chip spiral inductors were designed for applications in resonant tank circuits. A 433 MHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band tank circuit was designed based on a single spiral structure with a self-resonant frequency of 433 MHz, resulting in a decrease of 3.6% in the tank-Q compared to a circuit designed for maximum tank-Q. An LNA for a wireless receiver utilising a similar structure for the tuned load has been designed with a gain of 43 dB and a bandwidth of 1.74 MHz occupying an area of 0.48 mm2.
The operation of a thin film hot wire directional anemometer is demonstrated using three modes of operation; constant voltage, constant current, constant resistance, and the heating response and characteristics for the different excitation modes observed. Evaluation is primarily by experimental approach. The anemometer fabricated is a four element 2mm x 2mm thermoresistive sensor array mounted on a 1.5 μm silicon nitride membrane formed by bulk reverse etching. Reverse etching is used for thermal isolation of the sensor elements and allows element temperatures in excess of 500°C to be reached with an input power of 250mW and accurate lower temperature operation with element temperatures and heating powers of 65°C and 25mW respectively. Current sources are commonly used for excitation of such devices and resistance feedback often not required due to low resistance variations during operation, however high power modes of operation can lead to instability and self-destruction of positive temperature coefficient of resistance (PTCR) devices. Voltage or resistance feedback provides stable operation due its self-limiting nature in a PTCR device. Resistance monitoring provides a means to achieve stable temperatures of the heating elements and provides reduced sensitivity to fluctuations in ambient air temperatures and a more acceptable response to the incident airflow velocity.
The use of silicon-based sensors requires the addition of external support electronics to allow for compatibility with external logging and display instruments. The development of a smart sensor technology, where the support electronics are incorporated into the sensor allows for a simpler interface. To achieve this integration techniques are required for the connection of substrate sensors with drive and support circuitry (operational amplifiers and CMOS circuitry), for effective encapsulation into a single packaged device. In this paper a literature review of basic peripheral and internal interconnect techniques is presented. Three techniques for interconnects were experimentally investigated (wraparound, thermomigration and etched micro via’s) using in-house fabrication equipment and the results presented and discussed. An integrated "smart" light sensor was constructed by forming a schotkey diode on n-type silicon. The sensor was integrated with a commercially available LM324 quad operational amplifier die and etched micro via`s were used to connect between the electronics on one side and the silicon sensor on the other side so forming a smart sensor. The light level sensor was calibrated and tested for suitability as a solar intensity monitor.
A thin film airflow transducer based on the hot wire anemometer principle was designed using current MEMS modelling & simulation software. Flow sensors are commonly implemented with thermal isolation of the sensor from the bulk substrate mass using methods such as reverse side etching or sacrificial layers, however this paper will present a sensor relying on thermal insulation only. This insulation may be provided by layers of material exhibiting relatively poor thermal conduction characteristics such as silicon dioxide or polyimide, giving rise to a number of advantages such as removing the process of reverse side etching. Limiting fabrication to use of simple processes such as photolithography and sputtering/evaporative deposition also simplifies this design and assists in greatly increasing the compatibility with standard CMOS fabrication processes and materials. A combination of both theoretical computer modelling and physical fabrication and testing has been the approach to this research. Preliminary testing of this design has demonstrated small yet measurable temperature gradients across the device surface during steady state operation. The novel approach to this device is the investigation of pulsed operation, effectively a transient analysis that allows the thermal conduction effects of the bulk mass to be significantly reduced, leading to a significant increase of both efficiency and response time. Electro-thermo-mechanical and computational fluid dynamic analysis of the structure successfully model the thermal conduction, radiation and forced convection effects of the device during and after ohmic heating of the sensor's heating element.