Berkeley Engineering professor Steven Glaser and INRIA researcher Thomas Watteyne have been good friends for years, ever since Wattyene did his postdoc at Cal. The pair kept in touch when Watteyne went to work at INRIA in Paris, on the EVA team, and often collaborated unofficially on certain projects. So when the Cap D’Agde marina, the biggest one in Europe, contacted Watteyne to see if he could help them monitor boat entry, the terrain was already in place for a fruitful France-Berkeley collaboration.
That project, which came to be known as SmartMarina, utilizes wireless sensor networks to track boats coming in and out of berths and their consumption of water, electricity, and other marina services. Glaser and Watteyne decided to install ultrasonic wireless sensors under moorings in the harbor to monitor which are occupied, ensuring that no electricity or fresh water goes to waste.
The project was such a success that Watteyne went on to start his own company, called Wattson Elements, which is currently working with another marina to implement the same system. Instead of talking only with the base station, the sensors work in a web-like manner to interact with each other and communicate.
Since the Cap D’Agde project, Glaser and Watteyne have continued to collaborate on SnowHow, a new project designed to monitor the Sierra Nevada snowpack. This project, which stemmed from the FBF-funded collaboration, generates real-time data which hydrologists use to measure the amount of water available in the Sierras. “The state goes out every month with a stick in the ground to conduct water surveys that are not detailed and inefficient. Our project deploys a network of sensors to measure how deep the snow is, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, groundwater, moisture--all that data, every 15 minutes--and sends it back via cell phone,” explains Professor Glaser. With a total of 945 sensors, this network is the largest one in the world by a wide margin. It is also currently being implemented at the University of Utah by a former student.
Both collaborations have been an undeniable success. “Thomas is the world’s expert on wireless sensor networking, so my students gained the computer science knowledge they couldn’t get from me. He is a computer scientist, whereas I am a civil engineer, so our different backgrounds allowed us to answer questions we would not have been able to otherwise,” explains Glaser. “The FBF is a wonderful opportunity,” he concludes. “Plus, working with a friend is always better.”