Andrew Wheeler, 24
Builds wireless sensor networks that improve industrial efficiency
From Hawaii to Norway to Japan, Andrew Wheeler’s wireless sensor networks are providing real-time control over factory conditions, energy usage, and inventory. As a graduate student at MIT, Wheeler built small processors with built-in sensors and radios that could be spread around a factory or power plant, where they organized themselves into smart communications networks that could manage sensor information, such as temperature. Wheeler’s hardware and data-routing algorithm proved reliable in field tests, so in 2001, he cofounded Ember in Boston, one of the first companies to commercialize self-organizing nodes for wireless sensing and control. An intensely curious engineer who can “focus like a battering ram,” in the words of Michael Hawley, his advisor at MIT, Wheeler helped raise $28 million for Ember in a difficult investment climate-which has enabled the company to aggressively sell its communications nodes to customers in industry, to utility companies, and to defense contractors.