If you survey the literature for different ways that people have thought of to use motes, you find a huge assortment of ideas. Here's a collection culled from the links at the end of the article.
It is possible to think of motes as lone sensors. For example:
- You could embed motes in bridges when you pour the concrete. The mote could have a sensor on it that can detect the salt concentration within the concrete. Then once a month you could drive a truck over the bridge that sends a powerful magnetic field into the bridge. The magnetic field would allow the motes, which are burried within the concrete of the bridge, to power on and transmit the salt concentration. Salt (perhaps from deicing or ocean spray) weakens concrete and corrodes the steel rebar that strengthens the concrete. Salt sensors would let bridge maintenance personnel gauge how much damage salt is doing. Other possible sensors embedded into the concrete of a bridge might detect vibration, stress, temperature swings, cracking, etc., all of which would help maintenance personnel spot problems long before they become critical.
- You could connect sensors to a mote that can monitor the condition of machinery -- temperature, number of revolutions, oil level, etc. and log it in the mote's memory. Then, when a truck drives by, the mote could transmit all the logged data. This would allow detailed maintenance records to be kept on machinery (for example, in an oil field), without maintenance personnel having to go measure all of those parameters themselves.
- You could attach motes to the water meters or power meters in a neighborhood. The motes would log power and water consumption for a customer. When a truck drives by, the motes get a signal from the truck and they send their data. This would allow a person to read all the meters in a neighborhood very easily, simply by driving down the street.
All of these ideas are good; some allow sensors to move into places where they have not been before (such as embedded in concrete) and others reduce the time needed to read sensors individually.
However, much of the greatest excitement about motes comes from the idea of using large numbers of motes that communicate with each other and form ad hoc networks.