Home DASH7: Bringing Sensor Networking to Smartphones

DASH7: Bringing Sensor Networking to Smartphones

Think your smartphone is cool now? Wait till it gets RFID chips, then it’ll truly be ‘smart.’ That’s the promise of two emerging RFID-based mobile technologies called NFC and DASH7. We’ve already looked at NFC (Near Field Communication), which holds great promise as an enabler of mobile payments. Today we look at DASH7, a wireless sensor networking standard that complements NFC.

Both NFC and DASH7 may soon be a part of the mobile phone that you carry around everywhere – they’ll enable mobile payments, building access, advanced location-based services, ticketing, and more. We spoke to Pat Burns, co-founder and president of the DASH7 Alliance, to find out what DASH7 can do.

DASH7 was originally created for military use – and it’s still being used for those purposes. In January 2009 the U.S. Department of Defense announced a $429 million contract for DASH7 devices, to four vendors: Savi Technology, SPEC, Northrop Grumman, and Unisys. Pat Burns works for one of those vendors, Savi Technology. He also writes the DASH7 blog, which is an excellent daily read.

According to an upcoming report by the DASH7 Alliance, which ReadWriteWeb got an early peak at, DASH7 is typically used for applications requiring low power, “bursty” wireless communication. The report states that DASH7 is “ideal for large area sensor networking or supporting reliable communication with things on the move.”

That means that DASH7 is going to be an integral part of the Internet of Things, as it can acquire sensor data and help run social networking applications that use sensor data.

Both DASH7 and NFC are technologies that enable your phone to communicate with other devices. So for example, these technologies allow your phone to read a ‘smart poster’ (a poster with a barcode or chip in it). The major difference between the two is that NFC is a short-range communications technology, with a range of about 10 centimeters. DASH7 however has a much longer range, of hundreds of meters.

DASH7 is also a low power wireless technology, meaning batteries can last for many years. The main disadvantage of DASH7 is that it can’t handle high bandwidth data transfers.

DASH7 competes directly with a wireless data protocol called ZigBee. However DASH7 and NFC complement each other, according to the upcoming DASH7 report. Both technologies can potentially be hosted on the same phone. The report states:

“NFC is a short-range passive RFID technology whose “killer” application is the enormous-but-elusive mobile payments opportunity. […] in the future we will probably just ditch our credit cards and instead wave our smartphones next to a cash register or vending machine in order to complete a purchase. Enhancing NFC silicon to include DASH7 functionality will accelerate the adoption of NFC for non-payment applications and ultimately for NFC generally.”

The reason why DASH7 is hitching its wagon to NFC is that NFC has received the most interest so far by mobile handset manufacturers. Nokia is an early adopter of NFC, while both Apple and Google are rumored to be close to adopting it in 2010.

Pat Burns told ReadWriteWeb that DASH7 could play at the intersection of location-based services, Internet of Things, social networking, and other mobile services. Examples include enhanced location-based apps, building automation smart energy, tire pressure monitoring, and in-transit temperature monitoring of perishable goods. We will look into these and other DASH7 use cases in Part 2 of this post tomorrow.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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