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HBR+Feb.+2009+-+A+Central+Nervous+System+for+the+Earth -...

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Unformatted text preview: hbr.org | February 2009 | Harvard Business Review 39 BY R. STANLEY WILLIAMS Researchers are fast overcoming physi- cal barriers to developing nanoscale materials and technologies. We can now create arrays of nanotechnology-based sensors capable of gathering data on virtually anything that can be measured. The rapidly falling cost and rising capa- bility of these sensors hold the promise of an affordable planetwide sensing network. Such an infrastructure could monitor natural and built environments to provide situational awareness for ur- gent real-time interventions and global awareness for ongoing maintenance. Potential applications include: ■ Sensing minute vibrations indicating that a piece of equipment or a structure is nearing the point of failure and needs to be repaired or replaced. This would prevent catastrophes involving major infrastructure such as bridges and oil refi neries....
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