Section: Application Domains

Application domains

Closing feedback loops around Wireless sensor networks offer new challenges and new opportunities for the area of control. Several new application areas can be enabled, or enhanced if systematic methods are developed for the design of NCS. Examples include:

  • Intelligent buildings, where sensor information on CO 2 concentration, temperature, room occupancy, etc. can be used to control the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system under multi-objective considerations of comfort, air quality, and energy consumption.

  • Intelligent transportation systems, where traffic flow or density can be measured using novel wireless technologies and used to determine control inputs such as on-ramp metering schemes and variable message signs.

  • Disaster relief operations, where data collected by sensor networks can be used to guide the actions of rescue crews and operate automated rescue equipment.

  • Surveillance using swarms of Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), where sensor information (from sensors on the ground and/or on-board the vehicles) can be used to guide the UAVs to accomplish their mission.

  • Environmental monitoring and exploration using schools of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), where underwater sensors and communication are used to guide the AUVs.

  • Infrastructure security and protection using smart camera networks, where the images collected are shared among the cameras and used to control the cameras themselves (pan-tilt-zoom) and ensure tracking of potential threat.

In particular, the team is already involved in the areas described in detail below.

Vehicular transportation systems

Car industry

Car industry has been already identified as a potential homeland application for NCS [76] , as the evolution of micro-electronics paved the way for introducing distributed control in vehicles. In addition, automotive control systems are becoming the more complex and iterative, as more on-board sensors and actuators are made available through technology innovations. The increasing number of subsystems, coupled with overwhelming information made available through on-board and off-board sensors and communication systems, rises new and interesting challenges to achieve optimal performance while maintaining the safety and the robustness of the total system. Causes of such an increase of complexity/difficulties are diverse: interaction between several control sub-systems (ABS, TCS, ESP, etc.), loose of synchrony between sub-systems, limitations in the computation capabilities of each dedicate processor, etc. The team had several past collaborations with the car industry (Renault since 1992, and Ford). In addition, an ANR project, named VOLHAND, has been started in collaboration with INRETS, JTEKT, Fondation Hopale, LAMIH, CHRU. It aims at developing a new generation of electrical power-assisted steering specifically designed for disabled and aged persons.

Intelligent transportation systems

Throughout the world, roadways are notorious for their congestion, from dense urban network to large freeway systems. This situation tends to get worse over time due to the continuous increase of transportation demand whereas public investments are decreasing and space is lacking to build new infrastructures. The most obvious impact of traffic congestion for citizens is the increase of travel times and fuel consumption. Another critical effect is that infrastructures are not operated at their capacity during congestion, implying that fewer vehicles are served than the amount they were designed for. Using macroscopic fluid-like models, the NeCS team has initiated new researches to develop innovative traffic management policies able to improve the infrastructure operations. This activity is currently focused on automatic model calibration and traffic prediction, two important items to implement efficient Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) such as traffic responsive ramp metering and varying speed limit as well as producing relevant user information. The team is currently setting up a consortium with local authorities involved in traffic management to build to a demonstrator called GTL (Grenoble Traffic Lab). One target of this activity is to transfer part of the developed technology to a start-up named Karrus.

Underwater systems

Underwater systems, as presently used or intended by the offshore industry and marine research, are subject to severe technological constraints. In AUVs, the on-board power is limited and calls for both control and computing optimization. The links between the master and slave nodes use acoustic devices, which have a very low bandwidth and are subject to frequent transient loss, thus calling for sharing the decisional process among the nodes and for a robust implementation of the distributed control, taking into account the communication network features. These constraints together with the potential cost of failures make these systems good candidates for safe and flexible control, communication and computing co-design. The team already got a significant experience in this domain with a past collaboration with IFREMER and other EU projects. The projects CONNECT and FeedNetBack are dealing with this type of problems (see Sections  8.2 and  8.3 ).

Systems on chip

Achieving a good compromise between computing power and energy consumption is one of the challenge in embedded architecture of the future. This management is especially difficult for 45nm or 32nm known to be at the limit of the scalability. Automatic control loops have therefore to be designed in order to make the performance fit the requirement in order to minimize the energy loss in a context of highly unknown performance of the chip. The main objective is to control the computing power and the consumption using the voltage and frequency automatically according to the requirements of the OS. For this, appropriate sensors must be implemented on the chip and a high-performance repartition between hardware and software implementation must be made.