Mason faculty and students launch “Cast the Net” – An Adaptive Wireless Environmental Sensor-Web for Environmental Monitoring

Drs. Viviana Maggioni, Paul Houser, and Celso Ferreira, with the help of undergraduate and graduate students (Mr. Jeremy Johnston, Ms. Azbina Rahman and Ms. Melissa Rossi) and the collaboration of Ms. Donielle Nolan from Mason’s Office of Sustainability, are developing a smart sensor web that enables an interconnected, low power method for the collection of environmental data at the Mason campus. The project is supported by generous funding by the Dominion Foundation. The porject involves the implementation of an innovative, adaptive, hyper-resolution wireless sensor network (WSN) for real-time environmental monitoring during extreme events using the Libelium Waspmote sensor technology. This framework will provide insight on the next generation of real-time environmental monitoring for large facilities and infrastructure management. The environmental sensor web wireless mesh that ensures communication between network nodes, is informed by geographical awareness, weather forecast models, and decision protocols that enable the network to adapt to and observe rare, rapidly changing events. Adaptive, geographically aware sensor networks can dynamically adjust their collective sampling protocol to observe rapidly changing conditions and event dynamics, and conserve resources during slowly changing conditions.

The team is currently developing a stationary network, using the Libelium Evaluator Kit – which includes sensor components, radios, waspmotes, and sensor boards – and additional equipment, such as wind, rain, leaf wetness, water quality, and soil moisture sensors. The network sensors are linked to each other so that they can sample at a much higher temporal resolution (5 minutes or less versus the standard 3 hour interval) when rapidly changing conditions are observed by at least one node in the network.   By providing an abundance of real time data, the WSN will improve our understanding of environmental events with an ultra-high 4D resolution, enable new discoveries on rapidly changing conditions and event dynamics, and enable emergency management by detecting and communicating hazardous conditions. This novel framework is also providing a research and educational experience to Mason students using state-of-the-art sensor technology for environmental monitoring.