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- April 7, 2006 -


“Motes” Continue to Gain Attention, as Venture Capital Interest Heats Up


Arch Rock gets $5 million to build out software capabilities; is Smart Dust in your future?



SCDigest editorial staff

The News: Technology firm received $5 million in funding to build software for wireless sensors called “motes”

The Impact: Motes technology is starting to develop the ecosystem necessary to take it to mainstream business and industrial applications.

The Story:  The relatively quiet development of technology and applications for a technology called motes is starting to gain momentum, as this week saw the formal launch of a new company, Arch Rock, which is focused on building software to support motes and related wireless sensor networks.

As Supply Chain Digest reported last year, a mote is a monitoring device that combines a small computer (including an operating system and application software), one or more sensors, and a radio for transmitting information. Motes are often spoken of interchangeably with the term “wireless sensor networks,” and aligned with the concept of “pervasive computing.” (See Technologies to Watch – Motes)

The basic idea is to enable sensor networks, capable of monitoring a wide array of conditions and events (e.g., temperature, vibration, movement, magnetism, light, even pictures and video), to operate wirelessly – and to network with each other in a low cost, flexible and robust fashion. Combine this with a path towards ever smaller and smaller motes – sometimes termed “smart dust,” the size of a piece of glitter or less – and the cost to monitor things shrinks and the environment expands dramatically.

The devices are capable of flexibly creating wireless networks with each other in an ad hoc fashion often referred to as “mesh networks.”

Arch Rock is led by in part by two pioneers in the technology. David Culler, who helped lead research on motes at the University of California Berkeley, will be chairman and chief technology officer.  Another Arch Rock founder is Wei Hong, who previously led Intel's research project in sensor networks.  The two men helped develop an operating system (TinyOS) and database software (TinyDB) used by motes and resulting networks.

In addition, a former Cisco executive, Roland Acra, will be the company’s CEO.

Arch Rock will focus on continued development of software products for motes themselves and networks of the devices, including the ability to intelligently analyze the stream of data collected by motes. It is backed by $5 million in funding from Intel and venture-capital firms New Enterprise Associates and Shasta Ventures.

Some observers are predicting that within 10 years billions of motes could be deployed in applications ranging from machine monitoring in factories to sensors that could be embedded in pavement to measure the number and speed of passing cars of traffic control.

As we noted in Technologies to Watch: Motes, there is clearly overlap between motes and RFID. In fact, some observers consider RFID a subset of motes. At minimum, the two technologies are related and will clearly work together in some applications.

Other companies developing mote-related technologies include Moteiv and Cross Bow Technology, among others.

Do you see a bright future for motes and “smart dust?” What is the likely relationship to RFID? Let us know your thoughts.

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