Far from slowing down. On the contrary. By the end of this year, 4.8 billion networked endpoints are expected to be used in the enterprise and auto segments. By 2020, according to Gartner, this figure will rise to 5.8 billion, an annual growth rate of 21 percent.

Two forces are driving this development: speed and size. Businesses use improved broadband connectivity on one page to enable real-time analytics and on-demand intelligence. Several use cases in both B2C and B2B already show their potential. On the other hand, sensors – an integral part of the IoT – are becoming smaller and more sophisticated.

In this context, Gartner says companies will use physical space to interact with their customers through these tiny sensors. Smart cars , smart cities, industry 4.0 or smart farming are well-known terms of a phenomenon that looks at much more. Such as the next level of the IoT tech called Smart Dust , which is currently attracting attention.

Internet of Things -What is Smart Dust?

Cost and size decrease with increasing speed and performance. The best example of this is the transformation of mainframes into laptop and smartphone. The same applies to sensors that are the core of the Smart Dust.

This emerging, unknown technology, coined by researcher Kristofer Pister in 1997, consists of a network of millimeter-sized “moths” or sensors that act as wireless computer systems. These moths – also known as MEMS – are equipped with both mechanical and electrical components and could collect all kinds of data with the utmost accuracy : visual, thermal, chemical or biological.

The Smart Dust, which was introduced in its Hyper Cycle of Emerging Trends in 2018 , will, among other technologies, create “transparency between people, businesses and spaces,” says Gartner. Their further development will allow ever more accurate and sensitive data to be pooled, as the market research company’s forecast for 2019 shows.

Internet of Things – Where is the potential of the “Smart Dust”?

Especially the sensitivity of these electromagnetically moths and their small size are their biggest advantages. So these sensors could detect subtle vibrations, temperatures or even the ambient air, which makes them ideal for highly sensitive applications. Smart Dust technology is therefore able to increase the scope of IoT.

The sectors that can benefit most from this emerging technology and are the first to apply it are, inter alia, industry, agriculture, construction , and medicine. It’s all about monitoring machinery in a factory, factory, construction site, or agriculture to work more efficiently. This detailed control could, for example, systematically prevent system outages, perform maintenance on time and increase safety.

MEMs could also improve inventory control to track products along the entire supply chain. Finally, Smart Dust has the potential to significantly improve medical treatments and health monitoring. Because these sensors act as microscopic eyes, ears and hands and so penetrate into the depths of the human body and can decode it.

Internet of Things – What hurdles must the “Smart Dust” overcome?

The first big challenge is to reduce the size of the current devices to the size required by Smart Dust. The cost is also a major barrier to acceptance, especially if we think on a large scale.

There are also two major moral dilemmas that need to be resolved. It still has to be determined if there is a health risk, for example when inhaling the moths. And the subject of protection against abuse must also be regulated, possibly via a control of “moth traffic”.

Currently, the Smart Dust is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, there are already a few start-ups who are embarking on this concept to bring prototypes and first MVPs to market, such as Ambiq Micro, PsiKick or MEMSIC.

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