Tuesday, July 5, 2016

DARPA project targets ultra-low-power sensors

Researchers at the University of California, Davis are developing an ultra-low-power sensor technology that promises to meet the Department of Defense's long-standing need for persistent, event-driven sensing capabilities.
DARPA’s N-ZERO program aims to allow physical, electromagnetic and other types of sensors to remain dormant, consuming nearly zero battery power until awakened by an external trigger or stimulus.
Most sensors rely on active electronics to monitor the environment for an external trigger, which consumes power continuously and limits the sensor operating lifetime to weeks, days or less. By waking an electronic circuit only upon the detection of a specific trigger signature, the N-ZERO program research underway at UC Davis plans to extend the lifetime of remotely deployed communications and environmental sensors to years.
The initial program goal is to develop sensors that run on near-zero power and produce a wake-up signal when a particular signature is detected, such as a car or truck driving by, or a generator being switched on. "The vision for the program is that you could take a little sensor running on a coin cell and when you arrive somewhere you could take a handful of these things and toss them around every 100 feet or so," said research team leader David Horsley, a UC Davis professor in the school's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. "So when you set these things in a perimeter, and they're just sitting there happily, and a truck or car drives by, the sensor detects it and lets you know that an event happened." Horsley said the sensors are "kind of like having the ultimate geophone, where you're sensing for earthquakes, sensing vibrations in the earth."  more