Smart dust: coming soon to a lung near you?

You really can’t make this stuff up: I have just found, one after another in my RSS feed, two unrelated articles on Smart Dust that you must really read side by side: one about a wonderful future, another unintentionally exposing some of its, apparently, not-yet-considered consequences.

The first article, which in fact is just an excerpt of this one, describes “A cloud of nanoparticles [that] washes through a field. Tiny sensors gather data on variants in air current, moisture and temperature… The dust of nanoparticles - some may call it smart dust - can detect invaders in the field, be it a disease infecting the crop, small animals or humans and dispatch another cloud of dust to combat the threat.” Another report about smart dust, linked in that page goes even more epic, ending with “The world may soon be quantified by sensors, floating on the winds to everywhere”.

Smart dust floating everywhere. Everywhere

Smart dust: coming soon to a lung near you? /img/smart-dust-dangerous-dust-main.png

The other article that I found in my feed, right below the Smart Dust one, explains how the main health hazard of both construction sites and certain DIY activities may very well be… the dust of nanoparticles that they release.

Smart dust: coming soon to a lung near you? /img/smart-dust-mote.png

Of course, even without reading the full articles, it only takes one second of thinking to realize that while both articles talk of “nanoparticles” they mean two totally different things: those from DIY and construction are actual grains of dust, up to 700 thousands times thinner than human hair. The “Smart Dust” instead, is made of “motes”, that is flying micro-robots just a few millimeters wide. Still, the second article does a perfect job of bringing to everybody’s attention a question about Smart Dust:

Are swarms of solid, not biodegradable objects, small enough that any human and most (maybe endangered) animals can swallow, “floating on the winds to everywhere” really going to be “The Pinnacle Innovation Of The Internet Of Things”? Or is Smart Dust, unless strictly limited to very special scenarios (e.g. finding survivors in a collapsed building) one of its dumbest proposals?

Hey, Smart Dust: are you looking at me?

Even the privacy side of Smart Dust is going to be interesting. People are already annoyed enough by certain abuses of drones to not only (rightly, in my opinion) shoot them down but, apparently, also create a market for drone-specific, ferromagnetic shotgun shells (1). What other wonderful products that we really shouldn’t need may Smart Dust bring to our lives? Can I already buy ferromagnetic pesticides somewhere?

(1) the link to the drone-specific shells appeared in my Twitter timeline just a few minutes after the other two. As I said, you can’t make certain stuff up. Not certain news sequences, at least