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User-Friendly Sensor Net Ties Into Enterprise Data

Arch Rock claims its wireless sensor network will allow users to access and remotely manage the network just as they would any other networked device.
MANHASSET, NY — Arch Rock Corp. has developed a wireless sensor network that it says is simple enough to be deployed in an hour as a pilot network in a factory, office building or data center, yet sophisticated enough to be seamlessly integrated into enterprise applications as a set of standards-compliant Web services.

Arch Rock was founded in 2005 and built on a decade of research at the University of California-Berkeley and Intel Research. In the mid-'90s, co-founder David Culler and a small team investigating the extremes of computing created an operating system, TinyOS, for small, wirelessly connected computers that sense the physical environment and form vast embedded networks. They developed the Berkeley Mote architecture and open-sourced the software and the hardware.

In 2001, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contracted Culler's team to build the Open Experimental Platform for Darpa's Network Embedded Systems Technology program. Berkeley delivered three waves of open hardware, software and networking to academic and industry groups nationwide.

In tandem, Culler built an industrial R&D team at the Intel Research Berkeley laboratory. Members included Wei Hong, now vice president of engineering and a co-founder of Arch Rock, who brought an information management perspective.

With venture investment from New Enterprise Associates, Shasta Ventures and Intel Capital, Arch Rock has now come up with its first commercial product.

By integrating Internet Protocol and Web services, Primer Pack—based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard—gives users full access to embedded wireless sensor network (WSN) services through common IT methodologies. Arch Rock has created a link-layer protocol that implements the concept of "passive vigilance," which allows sensor nodes to sleep, using minimum energy, while remaining responsive to wakeup calls from the network when data must be collected or alerts generated.

Individual sensor nodes can be assigned IP addresses, DNS domain names and Web pages, and can be directly managed using such IP tools as Simple Network Management Protocol, ping and traceroute. Standard Internet provisioning and troubleshooting techniques, as well as authentication and other security measures, can be applied to single nodes, groups of nodes or the entire WSN, according to Arch Rock.

"For the first time, users can access and remotely manage the sensor network just as they would any other networked device," said Culler, Arch Rock's chief technology officer. "As a turnkey, customizable WSN system, Primer Pack fully incorporates the physical world of sensors into the digital world of IT."

Primer Pack sensor node software is the first commercial implementation of TinyOS 2.0, the latest version of the embedded OS for sensor networks. The hardware independence designed into TinyOS 2.0 works with microcontrollers and radio chips from Intel, Texas Instruments, Atmel and Ember Corp.

Arch Rock Primer Pack is priced at $4,995 and comes with six sensor nodes; additional nodes are $275. Each node can support up to six external sensors.