It has been more than a decade since Gartner Research identified the Internet of Things — physical objects with sensors, processing ability and software that connect and exchange data through the Internet and communications networks — as an emerging technology.

Nowadays, connected devices are indispensable to commercial industries, health care and consumer products. Data analytics firm Statista forecasts a near tripling of the number of connected devices worldwide from 9.7 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion in 2030.

The sensors embedded in devices are largely passive, transmitting signals to networked computers that process and return meaningful data to the device. Kyusang Lee, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, is working on a way to make the sensors smart.

His smart sensor will sit at the edge of a device, which itself sits at the outer reaches of a wireless network. The smart sensor system also stores and processes data — an emerging area of research he calls artificial intelligence of things, a research strength of the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“Given the exponential growth in the Internet of Things, we anticipate data bottlenecks and lags in data processing and return signaling. The sensor’s output will be less reliable,” Lee said.

The constant pulsing of data through wireless and computer networks also eats up energy and increases the risk of exposing sensitive data to accidental or unauthorized disclosure and misuse.

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