smart dust

Dust Networks

Dust Networks, Inc is a Silicon Valley-based company specializing in the design and manufacture of wireless sensor networks for industrial applications including process monitoring, condition monitoring, asset management, Environmental, Health and Safety (EH & S) monitoring and energy management.

Dust Networks works with industry and standards groups such as the HART Communications Foundation, IETF, ISA,and WINA to help drive the adoption of interoperable wireless sensor networking products.

Company History

In 1997, Kris Pister, professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley conceives of and starts the Smart Dust project with DARPA funding and support

Smart Dust

The Smart Dust project attempted to demonstrate that a complete sensor/communication system can be integrated into a cubic millimeter package, which involved both advances in miniaturization, integration, and energy management. This work was independent of any sensor and looked at both commercial and military applications including:

  • Defense-related sensor networks such as battlefield surveillance, treaty monitoring, transportation monitoring, scud hunting, ...
  • Virtual keyboard: Glue a dust mote on each of your fingernails. Accelerometers will sense the orientation and motion of each of your fingertips, and talk to the computer in your watch.
  • Inventory Control: The carton talks to the box, the box talks to the palette, the palette talks to the truck, and the truck talks to the warehouse, and the truck and the warehouse talk to the internet. (evolved into RFID)
  • Product quality monitoring: temperature, humidity monitoring of meat, produce, dairy products
  • Impact, vibration, temp monitoring of consumer electronics failure analysis and diagnostic information, e.g. monitoring vibration of bearings for frequency signatures indicating imminent failure
  • Smart office spaces
  • Interfaces for the Disabled

The project received much attention from the press as it all seemed to border on science fiction. Dust Networks eventually evolved into a company providing commercial applications for industrial monitoring and control.


  • July 2002: Dust Networks founded by Pister, Tod Dykstra, Rob Conant and Brett Warneke
  • February 2004: Completes $7M Series A financing from Foundation Capital, IVP and In-Q-Tel
  • July 2004: First products - SmartMesh® shipping
  • February 2005: Completes $22 M Series B financing from Crescendo Ventures, Cargill Ventures and prior investors
  • March 2005: Launches products based on IEEE 802.15.4 standard in the 2.4 GHz ISM band
  • June 2006: Launches SmartMesh-XT™ wireless sensor networking system optimized for industrial applications
  • September 2007: WirelessHART™ standard ratified
  • October 2007: SmartMesh IA-500™ family of WirelessHART standards-based systems announced
  • July 2008: Launches Smart Cities IP-based initiative


Wireless Sensor Networks attempt to increase transmission reliability and quickly adapt should the transmission fail and automatically route around failed links. This requires embedded networking intelligence that establishes, maintains and utilizes redundant multi-hop routing from source to destination.

Dust implements full-mesh networks, sometimes referred to as ‘mesh-to-the-edge’, which provides redundant routing to the edge of the network. In a full-mesh network every device has the same routing capabilities and is able to ‘decide’ where it belongs in the routing structure based on what other nodes it can communicate with, its proximity to the network gateway, and its traffic load. This allows for self-forming and self-healing. The multi-chip modules used to drive these networks are divided into 'gateways' and 'motes' (or mote modules). Gateways then tie back into larger networks used to make decisions within large industrial plants (oil refineries, chemical plants, produce facilities, etc).

The company has evolved from using a proprietary protocol called TSMP (Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol), to Wireless HART to launching an IP-based initiative called Smart Cities as of July 2008

External Links and References

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