A network more powerful than the Internet, while perhaps inconceivable right now, is just one of many potentially life-changing applications for wireless sensor networks (WSN) highlighted in a special update issue about Sensor Networks and Applications in Proceedings of the IEEE.

Published by the IEEE, additional topics of this Proceedings issue include a look at forward-thinking healthcare applications for WSN that could greatly improve electronic triage at large disasters by monitoring the injured as well as medical personnel; a conservation approach for utilizing sensor networks to conserve natural resources like electricity, gas and water, and the emerging trend of publishing real-time sensor data on the Web that opens up a wide variety of novel application scenarios.

“Sensor network research has grown dramatically in the seven years since Proceedings of the IEEE first published a special research issue on ‘Sensor Networks and Applications’ in August, 2003,” explains Neal Patwari, guest editor for the Sensor Networks and Applications edition. “The visions for sensor networks and their applications have changed as research perspectives have shifted, so as we move forward it is important to pause at this crossroad and ?look both ways? to better understand how these perspectives came to be and have evolved over time.”

Sensor network research of the past decade is enabling a new tier of the Internet to emerge. As presented in "IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6)in Low-Power Wireless Networks" by Jonathan Hui and David Culler, developments of the past decade in low-power networking technology as well as the Internet Protocol will allow the Internet to extend into the physical world.

"A decade ago, the sensor networking community eschewed the use of IP for low-power networking because of a perception that IP was too resource-intensive and ill-suited to the needs of sensor network applications," explains Jonathan Hui of Cisco Systems. "Not being bound to particular network architecture allowed significant developments in low-power wireless networking, but it was difficult to incorporate such networks into an existing IP-based network infrastructure."

The paper demonstrates that it is possible to take the recent developments of low-power wireless networking and incorporate them into IP-based network architecture.

"IPv6, the next version of the Internet Protocol designed to supersede IPv4, provides the necessary scaling and autoconfiguration properties needed to handle the expected growth of the Internet," says Hui. "IPv6 also provides the flexibility to include sensor networking advancements in low-power communication and mesh routing within the IP framework."

With various standards bodies, such as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), Z-Wave and ZigBee, adopting IP within low-power wireless networking standards, the stage has been set for the next tier of the Internet.

To receive a copy of  Proceedings of the IEEE?s Sensor Networks and Applications issue, visit the website at: or