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Cyber-physical systems readied for demos by White House-led team

Patrick Thibodeau | May 28, 2014
Internet of Things tech is cheap and available, and its only limits may be imagination, says Presidential Innovation Fellows

By having smoke, gas and other environmental sensors connected in an apartment complex operating independent of home networks, fire responders may know of a problem before the occupants. They may also quickly discover the extent of a problem by the number of building sensors reporting data.

Including mold and pollen sensors as part of the system may help residents and medical professionals understand the health of the building. "We can monitor the air quality of a building," said Hoffman.

Inoperable smoke detectors, often the result of dead batteries, has caused some fatalities in the county. With smoke detectors connected to a municipal network, Hoffman hopes that in the next five to 10 years that "dead smoke batteries are a thing of the past."

The county is taking its devices and installing them in an apartment complex for those residents willing to take part in a pilot.

The key here is cost. The hardware, sensors, wireless radios can be purchased for $1 or $2. The cost of networking is also dropping.

Montgomery County has installed a Sigfox tower on top of a government building. The cost was $3,000. Sigfox, a French-based firm, uses sub-GHz frequencies to send short m-to-m messages at low bandwidth for maximum range.

Sigfox's system is now being deployedi n the U.S., initially in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hoffman believes the Sigfox system may be able to provide total wireless coverage to Montgomery County for less than $100,000, allowing anyone to connect to device. Sigfox says subscription cost, depending on usage, will range from $1 a year to $1 a month.

Montgomery County will be one of two dozen projects demonstrated at the expo here. Others include a robotic, on-demand shuttle being piloted Stanford and West Point.

Another project, "Smart Roads," is demonstrating how it can reduce congestion and improve emergency response. "Smart Rooftops," which attaches sensors to heating ventilation & air conditioning units (HVAC), to monitor energy consumption, will also be demonstrated. The data is uploaded to a cloud for analytics to help improvement energy management.

Another demonstration system monitors water supply, and several projects are designed to help with health monitoring. This project list is long, and the only limit seems to be imagination.


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