In recent months, Zigbee and Z-Wave have made headlines for their ascending role in the home control marketplace. But many industry watchers may also be interested to learn that these technologies are being adapted for some pretty extraordinary applications outside the home as well. A few struck us as particularly impressive, and we’d like to share them here.
At present, scientists in New Mexico are using Zigbee networks to monitor atmospheric conditions in subterranean caverns, believing that what happens there may hold a great deal of insight into what happens above the Earth’s surface. In the future, they say, such sensor networks may also be deployed to monitor mines and even underground happenings on Mars.
Agricultural and Farming
Back in 2008, a team of university researchers in Malaysia developed an intelligent greenhouse scenario using Zigbee sensors. Because environmental control is so critical to successful indoor cultivation, the networks allow for stricter management of factors like temperature and humidity.
An independent American inventor recently filed a patent for a wireless emergency lighting system with integrated Z-Wave modules. In short, his network is capable of detecting power outages zone by zone and telling a built-in power supply to take over when necessary. This innovation will clearly prove useful in emergency situations where access to main power is restricted, and may even save lives.
Patient and Health Management
Vitality, Inc. has proposed installing Zigbee, Z-Wave, or other mesh-capable RF modules in medicine caps. In addition to LCD reminders on the front of each cap, the bottles are capable of communicating dosage information to health care providers. When the cap is removed, a confirmation that the dose was taken is sent to the home controller, then to relevant outside parties.
The idea, according to the company, is to improve prescription compliance and perhaps even boost brand loyalty.
This last one doesn’t really serve a greater social good like some of the previously cited examples, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
Japanese researchers have added a new twist to the age old game of dominoes by inserting Zigbee modules into each piece. Though the modified pieces are slightly bulkier than traditional dominoes, the sequence doesn’t require any contact.
Of course, wireless communications aren’t exactly a new concept in this modern age. But, in each of these applications, low cost, low power, self-healing mesh networks are being leveraged to create something new and innovative perhaps not practical, and maybe not even possible, just a few years ago. Better even is that these solutions have broad potential to improve lives all over the world.