Is my dust going to clean itself? no! The Internet has transformed the way people exchange information and ideas, but what if computer networks could sense motion, light, heat or pressure?
Could an environmentally aware network spot a forest fire in its early stages? Monitor a battlefield for the position of enemy troops? Detect damage to an oil pipeline, averting a disastrous leak?
Dozens of universities, venture capitalists, technology start-ups and major corporations are working on an experimental technology that could give computer networks millions of tiny electronic feelers. But they must untangle some thorny technical and economic problems before the technology takes off.