Smart dust

Intelligent networked sensors are multiplying and diversifying around us. From smartphones to matchbox-sized pollution monitors, these are serving us in a multitude of ways with applications in smart cities, urban infrastructure and ecological sites. But today’s available technologies are too rigid and prone to failure. Looking ahead, sensors the size of dust will enable a new class of computer architectures to supersede today’s approaches to cloud-based systems, ultimately pushing computer processing out to small devices at the edge.
I'm curious about... "future computer systems and how they are able to adapt to their environment, enhancing our lives in a multitude of ways."Prof Julie McCann


Professor Julie McCann is the Imperial lead for the Intel Collaborative Research Institute on Sustainable Connected Cities. She is Co-Principle Investigator on both the NEC Smart Water and Cisco Future Cities projects. She has been a Fellow of British Computer Society since 2012 and a member since 2009. McCann is regularly invited to talk on self-adaptive computing to a range of audiences.


My research involves writing algorithms that enable distributed wireless sensor networks to become self-organising, adaptive and intelligent. This approach often mimics behaviours found in nature - for example fireflies, ants and bee colonies. Some of her technologies have already found a home in monitoring water networks and pollution in cities. Currently researching the following questions:

  • How can distributed wireless sensors spontaneously self organise to form networks that are adaptive and intelligent?

  • How do you pass signals along a network by hopping from one node to another?

  • Could your mobile phone be used to carry signals from sensors in the city, in return for a cheap tariff plan?

  • How might artificial intelligence embedded in sensor networks result in better resilience against unanticipated failure?


Foresight and futures work

Pitch@Palace Bootcamp
2034: Tech Foresight
The future of sensing and data-driven technologies

Profile Credits

Foresight Development: Alex Ayad, Sara Kenney, Alun Rhydderch, Keeren Flora, David Barreto Ian, Ali Salehi-Reyani, Kristina Kareh

Video: Alex Ayad, Keeren Flora, Sara Cropley, Tom Walker, Consider Creative