What it's not: A miniature Chinese checkers board.

What it is: This is a mote — a wireless sensor that is part of a prototype lighting control system being developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers in Berkeley, Calif. The system is designed to provide wireless control of office fluorescent lighting for greater energy efficiency and occupant comfort. A wireless network installation is estimated to cost 30% less than a wired network installation, according to these researchers, who note that much of this savings is in labor. Haywood, Calif.-based Dust Networks provides the wireless mesh networking technology consisting of motes — tiny sensors that create a low power connected network of sensors, control devices, computers, and other related devices. Using Dust Networks' SmartMesh technology, the Berkeley research team developed several components for lighting control. These include an analog control module and mote-integrated dimmable ballasts (MDBs), which will work in existing lighting systems. They have also developed a wireless environmental sensor that measures the lighting level in a room, tells whether the room is occupied or empty, and transmits this information to the control system through a mote.