A wireless sensor network is an ad hoc network with a large number of nodes, which are micro-sensors capable to collect and transmit environmental data autonomously. The position of these nodes need not be predetermined. They can be randomly dispersed in a geographical area called “Wellfield” corresponding to the field of interest of the captured phenomenon.
In addition to civilian applications, there are military applications for sensor networks (intrusion detection, fighters localization, vehicles, weapons, etc. On a battlefield, under water, in space, in the ground…)
Until the 1990s, except for some radio tags to route sensor data to the central controller required a costly and cumbersome cabling.
New wireless sensor networks have emerged in the 1990s, particularly in the fields of environment and industry, enabled by recent advances in the field of wireless technology. Today, thanks to recent advances in wireless technology, new products based on sensor networks wireless are used to recover these environmental data.
Data collected by the nodes are routed through a multi-hop routing to a node considered a “collection point,” known as the well node (or the sink). The latter can be connected to the network user (via Internet, satellite or other system). The user can send queries to other network nodes, specifying the type of data needed and collect environmental data collected through the well node.
The conjoint progress of microelectronics, microtechnology, wireless technology and software applications have produced micro-sensors few cubic millimeters in volume at a reasonable cost, capable of operating in networks.
- a sensor unit responsible for capturing physical quantities (heat, humidity, vibrations, radiation…) and transform them into digital quantities,
- a data processing unit and data storage and a wireless module (wireless ).
These micro-sensors are real embedded systems, which can autonomously collect and transmit environmental data to one or more collection points and thus form a network of wireless sensors (WSN).
Decreasing size and cost of micro-sensors, expanding the range of available sensor types (thermal, optical, vibration…) and support the development of wireless communication, have expanded the scope of sensor networks. They fit other systems such as control and automation of assembly lines. They used to collect and process complex information from the environment (weather, study currents, ocean acidification, dispersion of pollutants, propagules, etc.
Some futurists believe that sensor networks could revolutionize even the way to understand and construct complex physical systems, especially in domestic military environmental health fields, security, etc.
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