Motivation

Small, intelligent devices with sensors and actuators are increasingly used to respond to their enviromental conditions and to control their environment better, last but not least to save energy. We talk about “smart energy“, when energy saving (or more cost-saving use of energy) has priority and about “home automation” or more general “building automation”, when especially comfort gain and time savings are motivating.

The devices with sensors and actuators have to be linked, which isn’t always cheap using wires; many of these systems have to communicate wireless. The devices should stay cost-efficient, particulary with regard to their own energy consumption, which often have to be covered by (primary) batterys.

In research an own term for these linked systems has been established: the area of ‘sensor networks’.
However, sensor network research was often motivated by a military context in the past; the results could not be transfered easily to civil application (or even to actual working systems). In addition sensor networks were cultivated as a completely separated technology sector, instead of integrating them into bigger networks like the Internet.

With the standardization of IEEE 802.15.4 and 6LoWPAN there exist standards for wireless connections between cost-efficient, energy saving nodes in the meantime, a first step towards the Internet of Things, which deserves its name. However, it is less clear, which application architectures should be used above these base standards to allow global wide-spread applications in the smart energy/home automation sector: As the Internet existed for decades, before the application “web” initialized its breakthrough, sensor networks are also waiting for the decisive impuls.

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