Just a few weeks ago, IEEE published in its proceedings a special issue containing articles that review some of the applications for which the use of Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) has been envisaged. The papers included in this issue, rather than addressing specific (and narrow) technical problems, present an interesting and broad overview of the possible applications of sensor networks in several areas, and outline the challenges involved with the development and deployment of wireless sensing solutions.
I would like to recommend two articles. The first one “Wireless Sensor Networks for Healthcare” by J. Ko et al., highlights the potential of wireless sensors for healthcare monitoring applications. It provides three examples of prototypes that have been developed for physiological monitoring, motion and activity monitoring and large scale behavioral studies respectively. It also reviews and discusses the general challenges that system designers have to face while dealing with the typical resource constrained nature of motes and with privacy and security issues, arising when confidential data are transmitted over an open and potentially unsecure medium such as the wireless channel.
The second one, “Environmental Wireless Sensor Networks”, by P. Corke et al., describes five different prototypes respectively developed for monitoring cattle, ground water quality, rainforest, lake water quality, and for virtual fencing. In this case, greater emphasis is put on energy consumption and scalability issues. Environmental monitoring requires in fact that many motes are deployed in a potentially remote area meaning that the data gathering paradigm used by the nodes must be able to deal with such a high number of devices. Moreover, since replacing or recharging batteries might not be feasible, the design of the application should aim at minimizing energy consumption, in order to ensure the longest possible battery lifetime.