Grant enables intelligent sensor research, with biometrics benefiting

Published 7 March 2006

Research into intelligent sensor networks could accelerate developments in biometrics, healthcare, and other fields. A team at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) has been awarded a P 400,000 platform grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to explore new directions in the field of intelligent sensors. The team will investigate potential in four key areas: wearable self-powered sensors; novel biometric systems; intelligent energy-aware wireless sensor nodes; and intelligent sensors in healthcare.

This project has particular significance for the field of biometrics, where the researchers have already used polymer thick-film sensors to identify people by the way they tap out rhythms on a keypad. They now propose to develop a smart keypad to develop this work further. Security is a major application area for smart environments, particularly in the field of biometrics where an individual is identified by a behavioral or physiological feature. The team has thus set itself the task of developing an intelligent keypad which is able to measure the force and timing information related to each key press, analyze an individual’s characteristic signature, and transmit secure data.

The ECS team has twenty-five years experience in developing intelligent sensors. In addition to biometrics, the researchers will also try to develop intelligent energy-aware sensor nodes capable of harvesting power within the environment through the use of photovoltaic cells and vibration generators integrated within a network. The effort to develop human-powered microgenerators, which are operated by the natural movement of the body, may also make self-powered heart pacemakers a reality and make it possible for people to wear human-powered devices.

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