Smart dust is tiny electronic devices designed to capture mountains of information about their surroundings while literally floating on air. Nowadays, sensors, computers and communicators are shrinking down to ridiculously small sizes. If all of these are packed into a single tiny device, it can open up new dimensions in the field of communications.The idea behind 'smart dust' is to pack sophisticated sensors, tiny computers and wireless communicators in to a cubic-millimeter mote to form the basis of integrated, massively distributed sensor networks. They will be light enough to remain suspended in air for hours. As the motes drift on wind, they can monitor the environment for light, sound, temperature, chemical composition and a wide range of other information, and beam that data back to the base station, miles away.
These Smart Dust elements are also known as motes. This concept is also called wireless sensing networks. At one point, just about every issue of Popular Science, Discover and Wired today contains a blurb about some new application of the mote idea. For example, the military plans to use them to gather information on battlefields, and engineers plan to mix them into concrete and use them to internally monitor the health of buildings and bridges.There are thousands of different ways that motes might be used, and as people get familiar with the concept they come up with even more. It is a completely new paradigm for distributed sensing and it is opening up a fascinating new way to look at computers.