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Wireless Networking Hardware Science

Wireless Sensors Monitor Glacier Behavior 77

Roland Piquepaille writes "In a world premiere, an interdisciplinary team of the University of Southampton, GlacsWeb, has deployed a network of wireless sensors inside a Norwegian glacier to record its behavior. This news release, "Sensor Technology Comes in from the Cold" says that the sensor probes, housed in 'electronic pebbles,' are buried 60 meters under the surface of the glacier. And they transmit wirelessly their observations about temperature, pressure or ice movement to a base station located on the surface, which relays the readings to a server in the UK by mobile phone. The researchers think that similar sensor webs will soon be deployed around the world to watch what is changing in our environment. You'll find more details and pictures in this overview."
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Wireless Sensors Monitor Glacier Behavior

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  • Heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Fjornir ( 516960 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:05PM (#9297661)
    This is great. Now I don't need to worry about being run over by a speeding glacier next time the ice age comes around.
    • by Bowling Moses ( 591924 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @04:15PM (#9298025) Journal
      This technology might also be useful for avalanche detection. I saw a program on PBS about the Mt. Blanc glacier []. In 1892 a lake hidden in the interior of the glacier breached the glacial ice it was trapped in, and the resulting flood/avalanche killed 200 people in the town of Saint Gervais. The glaciers on Mt. Blanc have been retreating, but in melting process have developed large liquid water filled caves--which on the PBS program they got some loonies to go dive in. Other mountains probably have similar melting features, so if you could deposit sensors like those in the article into these glaciers you might be able to avert disaster.
    • Re:Heh. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dr Caleb ( 121505 )
      Now I don't need to worry about being run over by a speeding glacier next time the ice age comes around.

      Let me guess, you're one of the guys writing Duke Nukem Forever . . .

  • by panurge ( 573432 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:15PM (#9297717)
    Yeah, I'm in the glacier. Looks like we're sliding about three centimetres a year. I guess I might be late for the meeting...sorry, you're breaking up. That's better. Look, if I give you the readings could you turn them into a quick Powerpoint?
  • Mars (Score:1, Insightful)

    I think it would be interesting if they could put these on Mars sometime in the future.
    • I have a hard enough time getting mobile phone coverage where I am anyway, let alone Mars...
    • Why?

      We already have more data coming from mars than we can deal with:

      Excuse the god-aweful MSFP Orsted subpage. But LOTS of cool mars magnetic field data.

      Lets hold off for a few years and get the rest of this stuff processed first. I have to add though, we've found some amazing stuff about the mars magnetic fields.

  • by nev4 ( 721804 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:24PM (#9297758)
    It's all BS it's part of an extension to the Patriot Act that allows them to wiretap eskimos. They don't care about the glacier's, they are trying to spy on eskimoan extremists.
  • radio link (Score:5, Informative)

    by j1m+5n0w ( 749199 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:25PM (#9297768) Homepage Journal

    I'm surprised they got a radio link to work through 60m of ice. They're apparently [] using 1.8 ghz radios.


    • And I'm wondering how sticking electronic devices inside the iceberg affects their immediate surrounding, and how that affects their reports. All electronic devices that I know of, even LEDs, emit heat...
    • Re:radio link (Score:5, Informative)

      by alriddoch ( 197022 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @04:52PM (#9298232) Homepage

      The presentation you linked is a bit old, and I'm not sure where the 1.8 ghz figure comes from.

      I am one of the field researchers on this project, and radio propagation through the ice has been one of the major difficulties. Initial work based on 868MHz has had limited success, so the followup work will use 433MHz with a backup low bandwidth 50kHz link.

      Initial tests done last October with 433MHz indicated that we should be able get the range we need. The key is that ice has very different radio properties from water. It is much less conductive. This is countered by the problem that for much of the year there is a lot of water inside and on the gacier.

      • I was refering to this [] rather confusing slide, but lower frequencies do sound more plausible (not that I'm a radio engineer or anything)


  • Standards? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:34PM (#9297798) Homepage
    Are there any standard protocols for data transmission from these things (I mean above the wireless/transport layer)? just curious.
    • Re:Standards? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most sensor network research groups are developing their own protocols since TCP/IP and other standard protocols are perceived to be too heavy-weight, and usually do not match the specialized application conditions in the wireless network. For instance, a wireless sensor in most cases do not need a unique identity such as an IP address - it is the sensor data that is important, not the individual sensor devices. There is a very commonly used protocol called "Directed Diffusion" ( link []) that is used to gather
  • Carrier (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 )
    What mobile phone carrier has towers in that region? Perhaps they meant satellite phone instead?

    Also, what kind of battery life do transmitters packed in ice get?
    • Re:Carrier (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arcade ( 16638 )
      Without exact knowledge, I would think most norwegian mobile phone carriers has towers in that regions - just as most of the rest of norway is covered by the mobile phone carriers.

      We're talking about norway here, not the uS. ;-) Norawy has _very_ good mobile phone coverage.

      (NB: I'm a norwegian).
    • Re:Carrier (Score:3, Informative)

      by alriddoch ( 197022 )

      There is very good mobile phone coverage on the glacier, as there are antennas on the roof of a hotel in the valley below. This combined with excellent accessibility are the reasons this glacier was chosen for the study.

      The hardware has to be very carefully designed to get the batteries to last. We believe that we can get up to a year worth of operation from a probe. I don't have the details of the batteries to hand, but this is the aproximate time period, taking into account the reduced performance due to

    • the article showed the devices with AA batteries in the picture, and then, the power point presentation said they would use 6 AA batterys to get 7volts of power, and then, at the usuage they descibe the batteries will basicly last 1 year.
  • icecap measuring (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DoctorDeath ( 774634 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:36PM (#9297811)
    Careful measurements of the glaciers and polar ice caps is one of the most important types of research done at the polar research labs. The figures are used for calculations of global warming, polution, and tidal currents among other things. This new method means less people having to endure the extreme cold and horrible weather in order to achieve the much valued information. Currently sensors are placed on top of the ice to measure movement and laser measurement is done to determine shrinkage.
  • by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) <> on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:40PM (#9297829) Homepage Journal
    ... Seeing as the icebergs could fall into the ocean, and then drift out to warmer sea, and then cause the ocean to desalinate.

    Thus then affecting the ocean current and temperatures of said currents. Then cause the climate to abruptly change.

    Then when you think it couldnt get any worse, super storms would emerge and cause hurricanes to form over land. The hurricanes would have such a strong force that they'd (bear with me here) ...

    That they'd cause the STRATOSPHERE to come to the surface of the earth. Causing instantaneous freezign of everything in the eye of said land based hurricanes.

    As if that wasn't bad enough I predict this would cause 3/4 of the north america, europe and asia's populations to be killed. Thus causing the rest of the populations to move to mexico.

    But alas, this can all be prevented if we stop burning fossil fuels, hug a tree, and act like RMS.

    Also note, in the event a land based hurricane does bring the STRATOSPHERE down to the earths surface immediately find the nearest library or wendy's and stay there. If you have a tent, be sure to set the tent up in the kitchen of wendy's.

    You know what, this whole plot seems like the story for a HORRIBLE movie, I better write it down and call 20th century fox.

    • One performance only

      We'll fly you over burning forests
      We'll walk you through the starving hoardes
      We'll show you drowned and bloated corpses
      At a price you CAN afford

      You'll glide above the sky in comfort
      You'll sleep your nights in quiet hotels
      You'll sit and watch our views in comfort
      Of mankind in a thousand hells

      Arma G Heddon

      Alternatively we could really try to understand the science. It's a bit of a bore.
      But we could start with the BBC [].

    • If you add some wolves, you've got yourself a go picture.

      I. Cannes Pander
      20th Century Fox
  • Great now they have a tool to measure progress in Congress.
  • by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:44PM (#9297844)
    It doesn't mention that they're using anything special to do the wireless, but IIRC 60M of ice (or water) will defeat a fairly powerful radio signal. Anyone know if (a) I'm simply wrong, or (b) they're using something special? If the latter, how is it done and how well would it penetrate say 60M of rock?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:48PM (#9297866)

    "You'll find more details and pictures in this overview."

    Hey Roland, stop being MISLEADING and DISHONEST and say up front that you've taken other people's pictures and links (NOT more details), posted them at your BLOG, and that you want everyone to visit your BLOG so you can make more MONEY from increased traffic and ADVERTISING.

    I have never seen anyone so shameless about directing so much traffic to their own blog for financial self-gain. It brings a new definition to the term blog spam []

    This overview of Roland Piquepaille spam [] activities is the most insightful that I have ever read. Even Slashdot's moderators agree that it's insightful.

    • So you are saying that by 1) Having a website which contains posts about and links to technology / science related news 2) Selling advertising on said website and 3) Writing stories good enough that they are linked to by other major sites that you are a spammer? Wow, sounds like /. must be a spammer too. Let's see here... Slashdot sells ads, has articles about technology that they don't even write, the articles are usually just a paragraph with a few links and slashdot is pretty damn popular. Wow, I gue
  • by arcade ( 16638 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @03:56PM (#9297911) Homepage
    This may be a stupid question, but I'll ask it anyways.

    The big question for me is .. how is these pebbles powered? They have to be powered by battery, but are they turned on/off with certain interval, doing measurements, then turned off? Or are they continously online? In either case, how does one make batteries last this long? How long has they already been deployed? The article mentiones 1988, but I really, really doubt that the batteries have been active in those tiny pebbles since that long ago ... when were they put into the ice?

    • They're battery powered, and these type of devices (Google on "deeply embedded networks") are typically turned on/off based on varying criteria in order to conserve power. To extend battery power, you can add more devices and use less frequent "on" cycles. Nevertheless, it would be very unlikely that they've been there since 1988 since (1) the technology is younger than that, and of course (2) the batteries are very unlikely to last that long. My impression is that the devices either have not been actually
    • by alriddoch ( 197022 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @05:06PM (#9298413) Homepage

      The glacsweb probes contain about 4 small batteries. They contain a realtime clock, and are in a minimal power sleep mode for most of the time. They wake up once a day to talk to the base station on the surface. The probes are designed to last for a year, and the first batch were deployed in August 2003.

  • Roland==Spammer (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Poster is a slashdot spammer [].

  • "which relays the readings to a server in the UK by mobile phone". I wonder if they have to pay roaming charges.
  • ...can the sensors float?
  • Nova (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @04:28PM (#9298091)
    There was an episode of Nova a while back called Descent into the Ice [], which talked about a group of glacier explorers who were concerned about huge lakes of water forming inside glaciers.

    Anyway, one of the people they talked to also did observation/research underneath a glacier. There had been tunnels dug through the mountain and up to the bottom of the glacier, and he set up a time lapse camera underneath the glacier.

    It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Ever.

  • by markh1967 ( 315861 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @04:30PM (#9298110)
    How is it that they can get a mobile phone signal from ontop a glacier yet I can't get a signal from my house?
  • It's all just a cover story... really the sensors are for tracking intruders that might stumble upon the Pentagon's secret Area 52 base in the Arctic Circle...

    Mark my words, some poor penguin is going to get hauled off in the middle of the night for "tampering with US Government Property" []...


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