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Dean's Column

Data to Decision with Smart Sensors

Frieder Seible, Dean

The next advancements in healthcare, energy, and public safety may well be enabled by smart sensors. The sensors of the future will be more than simple data gathering tools. These devices will have embedded systems that can analyze data in real time; be configured in networks that can talk to each other; transmit information, not just data; and direct a reaction. The continuing development of wireless sensor systems will make it possible to put sensors anywhere and communicate remotely in real-time with them. Here at the Jacobs School, faculty and students in all six of our engineering departments are working on smart sensor development and applications. With our expertise in wireless technologies, embedded systems, and sensor networks in our Center for Wireless Communications and Center for Networked Systems; our work on new materials in NanoEngineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and our experience in applying sensors in real world systems in our Powell Structural Research Labs, Calit2 and Institute for Engineering in Medicine; the Jacobs School is uniquely positioned to lead the future of sensor development.

In this issue of Pulse, we provide just a sampling of the research in this field. Our faculty and students are working on intelligent sensor systems which have life-saving potential, such as the novel implantable glucose sensor being developed by bioengineering professor David Gough. Exciting innovations are being done here in building systems that can smell (electronic noses), hear (ultrasonics), feel (physical measurements), move (actuator integration) and communicate through wireless networks.

This evolving field is also integrated in our curriculum. For example, together with Los Alamos National Laboratories, we have developed a graduate degree program in structural health monitoring which focuses on energy harvesting sensors and distributed sensor networks for managing critical infrastructure and assets. Our Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments are developing joint curricula in wireless embedded systems. And at the undergraduate level, students in our senior design courses are gaining experience incorporating sensors into technology solutions for their project sponsors.

Clearly, sensors are becoming increasingly important to decision making in virtually all modern engineered systems. The advancement of smart, networked sensors will enable us to make better decisions, and in the end, lead to a world that is safer, healthier, greener, and more efficient.

Frieder Seible

Frieder Seible

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