Ubiquitous nanometric sensing & computing

Longtime reader Eoin Clancy from the UK brings our attention to a piece in Nature (1.6 MB pdf) by senior reporter Declan Butler on the prospect of ubiquitous sensing and computing:

“Everything, Everywhere: Tiny computers that constantly monitor ecosystems, buildings and even human bodies could turn science on its head…Computers could go from being back-office number-crunchers to field operatives. Twenty-four hours a day, year-in, year-out, they could measure every conceivable variable of an ecosystem or a human body, at whatever scale might be appropriate, from the nanometric to the continental…

“These trends show no sign of slowing down, and that makes pervasive sensor nets not so much possible as inevitable. One does not need to be a visionary to see that soon, tiny devices with the power of today’s desktops will be cheap enough to put everywhere.”

Prototype sensor webs were funded by “the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, which is interested in the technology’s military applications.”

The focus of the Nature piece is on the benefits to science, which should be huge. But we need to look at other uses as well, and try to ensure they promote our shared values rather than undermine them. —Christine

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