Clean Power researchers look to fruit fly for help in improving wireless network efficiency

Published on January 17th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


“Fruit Fly” Computers Could Command Swarms of Robots with Green Jobs

January 17th, 2011 by  

researchers look to fruit fly for help in improving wireless network efficiencyWhen it comes to efficiency, computer science has a lot to learn from the fruit fly, according to researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. The communication between nerve cells in the fly’s hairlike sensors has evolved with razor-sharp efficiency, and the research team is developing a means of translating that logic into a more efficient means of managing computer networks. The applications are wide-ranging, including remote control and data management for networks of robots that collect environmental information.

Green Jobs for Robots

Robot swarms are already being developed to collect environmental data from hard-to-reach spots. At Northwestern University, they’re working on small, lobster-like devices that can crawl across rough underwater surfaces in rivers and coastal zones. UC San Diego is also working on a small underwater robot that can drift on ocean currents. On the larger end of the scale, a more efficient network could improve the performance of agricultural robots and infrastructure robots, and the U.S. military is working on a robotic “pack mule” that could see double duty for environmental work and disaster relief.

Fruit Flies and Computer Networks

The nerve cells in the fruit fly’s sensors are ideal for swarms of remote sensors and other distributed networks, because only a small number of cells serve as “leaders” that direct all the other nerve cells. That’s the basic principle behind computer networks. The researchers found that the fruit flies arrangement is more “simpler and more robust” than anything computer scientists have been able to come up with in the past thirty years.

More Green Jobs for Robots

Aside from creating more efficient corps of robots for sensing and collecting raw data from the environment, a more efficient network design would help lower the cost of robot-based manufacturing operations for solar panels and other high tech products that are playing a critical role in our new clean energy future.

Image: Fruit Fly by Image Editor on 
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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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