I spent this week in the Conet 2010 summer school in Dagstuhl. I beautiful place in the german mid-west. The first days were a bit rainy, but the weather got better at the end. This place is like the computer scientists heaven. There is a library here with journals that date back to as far as 1958. And they also have an archive (that I did not visit) that might hold more interesting stuff. I found myself reading an IEEE Computer article from the early 60 that talked about how computers were starting to get too fast. And how that increase was changing the way programmers interacted with them. It was funny and gave me a sort of perspective.
For the first 3 days the summer school was organized in one and a half hour sessions given by well renowned professors. On Wednesday we had some short presentations from PhD students that were describing their findings or talked about the objectives that they had for their yet to be completed projects. Finally on Thursday and Friday we had two hands-on tutorials and additional presentations. There are a couple of presentations on Saturday that I will unfortunately not attend.
Of the presentations I have to highlight the one that John Stancovic gave at the beginning of the summer school. It was actually the opening presentation. There was one thing that I noticed among the things that he touched in his presentation. He gave a special place to the importance of robustness in cyber physical systems. This is something that I have had in the back of my mind since I started my PhD, but it acquired a new light when it was mentioned by Prof. Stankovic. Though it was jus t a small part of his overall presentation, it was something that I noticed and gave me a bit of direction in my work. 
Another highlight of the presentations was the intelligent window by Hartmut Hillmer. His talk did not really overlap on my work on reliability on WSN, but it was witty and very expressive. It was a breath of fresh air in a series of talks that were rapidly becoming monotonous. His talk was centered in micromachining foundations and a window that used this technology to control sunlight use in indoor environments (among other things) . I really liked it because of the way he explained concepts (used props and took various physical examples to the talk) and because he gave a wide overview of a field that I know very little about.
I also liked the talk given by Peter Cork about the work he has done throughout his career. It gave a nice spectrum of the possibilities for WSN. Though his talk was mainly based on robotics, most of his projects touched in some way or another on WSN. He did raise some interesting questions about some underlying assumptions that the general WSN community has had for a long time. Mainly he questioned the overall consensus that embedded systems have very limited resources. As I understood it, he didn’t actually want to say that embedded systems have plentiful resource, but that in some occasions the whole thing gets gets blown out of proportions. And with the advent of new devices, its worth revisiting and assessing just how constraint the resources are. This gives me hope in my search because we plan to use image recognition (notoriously resource hungry) in embedded systems.
I met loads of people with very interesting opinions that come from all over the world and have all sorts of backgrounds. I think this was the objective of the summer school and outweighed the presentations considerably. First, the fact that I repeated what I was doing and what I intended to do more than a dozen times made me think about my work and its final objective. My peers did not notice but I was actually asking myself if what I was saying had an actual future and if it had a niche in the whole WSN community. It was a very prolific exercise. Though I am still far away from actually molding what I am doing into a research question, today I feel that much closer :)
I leave Dagstuhl filled with a sense of hope and new found energy. i also regret I cannot stay a bit longer for the rest of the presentations and to bike around the region. I went out a couple of times to explore the surroundings and found it was filled with back-roads and little cute towns. I hope I can return in the future to Dagstuhl to another summer school or to one of its famous seminars.
 http://www.cs.virginia.edu/people/faculty/faculty.php?member=stankovic  http://www.photonik.de/index.php?id=112&seitenid=11&fachid=762&readpdf=photonik_intl_2009_2_048.pdf&L=1