July 7, 2000 A web site is now available that provides information, pictures and animation about wireless "webs" of small sensors that have been placed in gardens on Earth by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The site address is http://sensorwebs.jpl.nasa.gov .
Sensor webs will someday help make possible a key NASA goal to establish a virtual presence for exploration throughout the solar system. They are currently being tested at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif.
A sensor web consists of a number of small pods that each house transducers to collect data from the environment and communication chips that move the data around the web to primary pods. The information is then transmitted to the Internet or an overhead satellite. "Hopping" the data in short distance from pod to pod makes the overall data transmission more energy efficient. In addition, the "hopped" data is shared by all of the pods, allowing each one to know what is being collected elsewhere on the web.
The pods that are being tested in the Huntington's Botanical Gardens monitor local temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and light levels. Pods are housed in small plastic containers about the size of a sandwich box. Other sensor web pods look much like a gumball toy, but contain specialized instruments.
Dr. Kevin Delin is leader of the Sensor Webs Project at JPL. Shannon Jackson is lead engineer on the project.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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