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Wireless Sensor Network Monitors Green Roof Environmental Conditions

May 22, 2008

The newly-installed green roof featured on one of the buildings at The University of Texas at Arlington is being carefully and continually monitored by a wireless sensor network developed by Computer Science & Engineering Department researchers. The sensors monitor light, soil moisture and soil temperature conditions to help determine the best soils, plants, and roofing systems for the maximum environmental benefit with a minimum of resource expenditure for the green roof project.

Computer Science & Engineering Assistant Professor Yonghe Liu, together with his students Jing Wang and Huaisong Xu in the Center for Research in Wireless Mobility and Networking, designed and developed the network. The network is composed of multiple wireless sensor nodes, each capable of sensing the environment through different types of sensors – up to eight in this setup, and up to 16 can be employed by using an expansion board.

Using ZigBee wireless technology, the gathered sensory information is transmitted to a supernode, where the data are aggregated before being forwarded to a central controller. The data can be harvested from the central controller either through the built-in web server or by swapping out an attached compact flash card. The network’s hierarchical, cluster-based architecture makes it easily scalable to large-scale deployments and adaptable to a multitude of sensor applications.

The network will allow researchers to measure and study the correlation of the sunlight, soil moisture (rainfall/irrigation) and soil temperature to plant growth. Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor David Hopman, director of the green roof project, is studying roofing systems, soils, plant materials and irrigation techniques for this first extensive green roof in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. More sensor types will be deployed in the near future to study other effects and benefits of the green roof.