Professor Deborah Estrin to introduce work in embedded network sensors to an international audience at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

UCLA computer scientist Deborah Estrin, named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant Ten” in 2003, will introduce her work in embedded network sensors to an international audience on Jan. 27 at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The foremost global community of business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society committed to improving the state of the world, the forum is an independent international organization that consults with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Estrin is director of the UCLA Center for Embedded Networked Sensing, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Embedded networked sensing uses tiny sensors and actuators about the size of matchboxes that can be densely distributed within a natural or man-made environment to intelligently monitor temperature, water and structural changes in the world around us to help protect the environment.

“Embedded networked sensors have the potential to assist with critical global environmental issues,” said Estrin, who originally was funded to work on security applications of network sensors, but who later became interested in how embedded sensors could monitor an ecosystem.

Many global issues, Estrin noted, require understanding of environmental processes at small spatial scales to assess, forecast and manage. A threatened ecosystem could be infused with a plethora of chemical, physical, acoustic and image sensors to characterize the impact of land use and global climate change on biodiversity. Water quality could be monitored continuously, harmful exposure avoided and contaminants traced back to their source.

Sensors also could measure the effect of environmental factors on human health to help prevent infectious diseases, and provide early warning to natural disasters such as tsunamis.

“This technology will help us connect the physical world just as the Internet has allowed us to connect the world of computers,” Estrin said. “This presents a fascinating technological challenge – one that will have numerous commercial and consumer application spinoffs as well.”