What Dust Can Tell You

Kris Pister wants to give us a world in which we never lose our car keys again. This Berkeley, Calif., engineering professor foresees office cubicles that change temperature depending on who's sitting in them, traffic lights that know which roads are the most crowded and bestow green lights accordingly, and possessions that tell you exactly where you left them. And how is this brave new world to come about? Through specks of something nearly as tiny, cheap and ubiquitous as dust.

Smart dust, actually. That's the name for the wireless networks of sensors, called motes, that Pister, 39, is building. Each...

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