Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are growing in popularity and deployment thanks to the longer range and greater reliability of the mesh network configuration. Yet these networks aren’t easy to implement because of their hardware and programming challenges. Now, you can build a wireless sensor network with products from an unexpected source as National Instruments, the inventor of virtual instrumentation and LabVIEW, announced its WSN platform at NIWeek in Austin, Texas, earlier this month.
The NI WSN is a plug-and-play system. Just add your sensors and away you go. Two WSN nodes available initially include the WSN-3202, available with four-channel analog I/O input units that handle inputs in the ±10-, ±5-, ±2-, or ±0.5-V ranges with a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC). The WSN-3212 has four thermocouple input channels with a 24-bit ADC with a sampling rate of 0.5 sample/s. Support is provided for J, K, R, S, T, N, B, and E thermocouple types. Each node includes four digital I/O channels that can be configured for input, sinking output or sourcing output.
The system uses the IEEE 802.15.4 radio standards, which deliver 250 kbits/s in 16 channels in the unlicensed 2.4-GHz band. It incorporates some features of ZigBee, primarily the mesh networking feature. On-board processing in each module allows them to make unit conversions from the sensors and other useful calculations prior to data collection. Four AA cells with a typical three-year lifetime and a 1-sample/minute sampling interval power the nodes.
Basic pricing is $399 for the WSN-3202, $499 for the WSN-3212, and $799 for the WSN-9791 Ethernet Gateway. A starter kit is available.
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