Smart Environment using Wireless Sensor Networks

Serious concerns have been raised about the effects of industrialization, the diversity of chemicals in use and the likelihood of contamination and the activities of an impinging growing world population on the ecosystem and human health. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and landslides, and global warming with the resulting ocean acidification and biodiversity loss also lead to large-scale impacts on the environment. In a bid to counter the effects of these environmental problems, countries world-wide are adopting increased regulations and requirements for monitoring, controlling and treating pollution. Such regulations raises the issue of finding a suitable, cost-effective, and reliable technologies.

Smart monitoring not only includes the monitoring of pollution and earth changes, it also controls the effect of environmental changes for humans, animals and plants. Efficient monitoring and protection of the environment requires appropriate monitoring/diagnostic systems capable of collecting, processing, analyzing and disseminating data relevant to the environment in real time. Smart environments are distinguished by the connected and automated monitoring of environmental phenomena and events via linked wireless sensing devices  The self-monitoring and self-protecting environment is aware of its current status and ready to deliver timely alerts when configured thresholds occur.

The smart environment relies on sensory data delivered by multiple linked sensors in distributed locations. Wireless sensors capture environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, daylight, pressure, gases and moisture. The environmental sensors and cost effective, low-power communication wireless devices utilizing technologies including 3G, ZigBee, Bluetooth and satellite communications collaborate to form a wireless network.

Aspects to consider in any new wireless sensor network application where sensors are deployed in large numbers are scalability, data reliability, security and key management, and data analysis. A challenge is to achieve smart environmental monitoring systems, including smart sensor devices with seamless connectivity between heterogeneous networking components and energy-efficient, secured routing in resource-poor wireless mobile networks. Database design and support for smart environmental monitoring applications present further challenges where large amounts of sensor data are constantly collected. This requires integration to support prediction, decision-making, and related tasks. For environmental monitoring systems in remote or hostile environments that cannot be visited regularly, an intelligent remote and a secured access standard protocol is necessary for operating, managing, reprogramming, and configuring the wireless sensor devices.

Based in Spain and Peru, DIMAP-FactorLink, under the name of SISVIA Vigilancia y Seguimiento Ambiental, have used Libelium sensor networks to develop and integrate a forest fires detection system in Spain. The aim was to provide an environmental monitoring infrastructure with capability for alert management and to deliver early warning alarms. Four parameters were measured – temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide (CO) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Exceeding the configured threshold of any of the parameters triggers the system to analyze the information and react by sending an alarm to the fire fighters who know accurate position and time. The fire fighters are kept up to date with real time information regarding where the fire is spreading.

Wireless sensor networks are considered the basic infrastructure of many smart environmental monitoring applications enabling more flexible real-time environmental monitoring, diagnostics, and protection from further serious events and degradations. Libelium’s Smart Environment platform and sensors are now available in Australia and New Zealand from M2M Connectivity. This Smart Environment platform enables system integrators to deploy a heterogeneous wireless sensor network with a combination of sensor boards for Smart Environment applications such as forest fire detection, control of air pollution, snow level monitoring, earthquake early detection and landslide and avalanche prevention.

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