Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Next Generation of Computers: The Michigan Micro Mote

TerraSwarm PIs David Blaauw and Prabal Dutta and others in EECS at the University of Michigan continue to be in the news for their development of the Michigan Micro Mote (M3), the world's smallest computer-- also known as microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) or "Smart Dust". Once the University of Michigan's licensing office approves them, the blueprints for these tiny 'motes' will be released to M3's website and hundreds of motes will be disseminated for trials, allowing researchers and companies around the world to figure out new ways to use these mini-computer sensing devices in innovative applications. describes these tiny computers in their article The smallest autonomous computer:
With the M3, engineers at Michigan are the first to accomplish energy neutrality via indoor energy harvesting in a wireless system of its size. The M3 is a fully autonomous computing system that acts as a smart sensing system. Each mote contains solar cells that power the battery with ambient light, including indoor rooms with no natural sunlight, allowing the computers to run perpetually. 
There are currently three different systems in the M3 family, focusing on several different applications: sensing temperature, pressure, and taking images.   The Michigan Micro Mote is built in stacked layers which are able to communicate through a specially-designed universal interface protocol called MBus. By simply exchanging one layer with another, a new sensing system is achieved. The current pinnacle of the project is an imaging system that packs visual imaging, ultra-low power motion detection, wireless communications, battery, power management, solar harvesting, processor and memory into a package measuring a mere 2 x 4 x 4mm3. 

To learn more about these tiny computers, their potential applications or about the history of the development of MEMS/ Smart dust, read the following articles:

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