Sensors are everywhere. Your cellphone, your car, and your oven all have sensors. But sensors by themselves are not very useful. Instead, a sensor is used to provide the information necessary to make a decision. It is the combination of sensor and decision, or control system, that is useful. A very simple example can be found in an oven: the temperature is controlled by a switch that is turned on and off by a signal from a temperature sensor. However, often the decision is based on the input from more than a single sensor.
In the Distributed Sensor System research group, we work on two elements of sensor technology: the development of new sensor systems, and the development of sensor networks and computing systems to make better decisions. Our interests go from the physical basis of an individual sensor through to the complete system, including data analysis, data communications, control systems, and actuators.
We do not, however, work on sensor systems for the simple pleasure of developing new systems. We work on projects that will, eventually, be used by others. In that respect, most of our research is driven by problems that are presented to us by businesses and other institutes. We then develop sensor systems that help overcome these problems.
Our research is based around two societal themes: sustainable and smart living, and health and well-being. In the sustainable and smart living theme, we develop technology to help reduce the human footprint. We work with companies to make e-bikes more efficient through battery optimization, to develop more sustainable central heating systems via alternative heat storage technologies, and to improve agricultural efficiency through better monitoring systems. In our health and well-being theme we work with companies to improve the lives of people. Here, we envision technology as something that can aid health professionals rather than replace them. For instance, we are developing sensor systems to help caregivers detect anxiety in people who cannot communicate, and we are developing visualization tools to help orthotists design better sole inserts for people with orthopedic problems.