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Technical Perspective: On Abstractions and Embedded Networks

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The 20th century ended with the vision of a smart dust—a network of wirelessly connected devices whose size would match that of a dust particle, each one a self-contained package equipped with sensing, computation, communication, and power. The smart dust held the promise to bridge the physical and digital worlds unobtrusively, blending realms that were previously considered well separated. Applications involved scattering hundreds, or even thousands of smart dust devices to monitor various environmental quantities in scenarios ranging from habitat monitoring to disaster management.

A few years later, Jeff Kramer wrote an article in Communications entitled "Is Abstraction the Key to Computing?" (Apr. 2007). Kramer elucidated the key role of abstraction in solving computing problems. As many others also did before, he argued how the ability to focus on the essence of problems, perform abstract thinking, and discern recurring patterns represents a fundamental asset in mastering the complexity of computing systems. The power of abstraction and its conscious use applied to the quest to concretely realize the smart dust played and is still playing a key role.


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