Computer science engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have
developed wireless sensor networks with software agents that have been
able to navigate a robot safely through a simulated fire, and spot a
fire by seeking out heat. The sensor networks also can be used to
protect containers in a manufacturing environment.

The sensor networks are made up of tiny computers that run on batteries
and can sense temperature, magnetism, sound, or other environmental
conditions. In the fire scenario, the software "agent" -- a piece of
code that is self-contained and mobile -- locates the fire and clones
itself, creating a ring of software around the fire. A fireman can
communicate with the agent through a PDA to learn where the fire is
and how intense it is.

The network can be put in place on warehouse containers, enabling
the sensors to communicate with each other, triggering an alarm if, for
example, light or vibration is sensed. The manufacturer can then
communicate with the network through a PDA.

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