Take a look around. Whether you see them or not, there are dozens of sensors within reach. Computers, appliances, smartphones, watches…they’re in almost any piece of modern technology – and they’re getting even smarter and more sophisticated. Understanding the latest trends in sensor technology will make you more informed on the direction of the tech industry, as well as the future of the consumer marketplace.
4 Sensor Trends You Should Know About
As TechTarget blogger Margaret Rouse explains, “A sensor is a device that detects and responds to some type of input from the physical environment. The specific input could be light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, or any one of a great number of other environmental phenomena. The output is generally a signal that is converted to human-readable display at the sensor location or transmitted electronically over a network for reading or further processing.”
When you hear a definition like this, it’s easy to feel like sensors are basic and straightforward. However, this is anything but true. Sensor technology is constantly evolving and advancing. Some of the latest innovations and applications include:
1. Fully-Integrated Smart Sensors
You might think sensors are “smart” to begin with, but newer sensor technology is now integrating important components of a smart sensor into a chip. This provides a controlled specification set across the entire operating range of the sensor. As a result, sensor technology can be integrated at the silicon level itself. This enhances power consumption, simplifies products, and produces more accurate and repeatable results.
As industry expert Dilin Anand explains, a number of companies – including Texas Instruments and Allegro Micro System – are using these fully-integrated smart sensors in some of their newest products.
“[Allegro’s] Model A1335 is a contactless, programmable magnetic angle position sensor integrated circuit. It comes with a system-on-chip architecture with a front-end based on circular vertical hall (CVH) technology,” Anand notes. “It also includes programmable microprocessor-based signal processing and supports multiple communication interfaces including inter-integrated circuit, serial peripheral interface, and single-edge nibble transmission.”
2. Water Level Controllers
“For years mechanical floats have been the standard for maintaining the liquid level in an application,” Waterline Controls explains. “Over the years, these mechanical floats have evolved into electric switches that are more reliable and have more control of the application’s liquid level.”
Electrical switches typically come in three basic sensor types, but Waterline Controls has recently developed a new electronic switch sensor that runs on software and doesn’t plate, foul, or deteriorate the sensor probes (which is a common problem). As a result, they’re able to offer an unheard of 15-year average duty cycle with just a 1 percent failure rate.
3. Audio-Beam Forming
One of the fastest growing sensor trends is that of audio-beam forming. Originally used in military applications to gather information on the location of snipers, this technology has become much more cost-effective and is now used in a variety of commercial applications.
Audio-beam forming uses an array of microphones to gather three-dimensional orientation information about the source of a sound and identify where it is, who it is, and what it’s saying (when coupled with speech recognition systems). The Amazon Echo is a great example of a mainstream product.
4. Smart Dust
One of the more amazing trends in sensor technology is that of smart dust, which uses microscopic sensors powered by vibrations to analyze, monitor, and measure a variety of situations – such as battlefield activities and the structural strength of buildings. One company has even found a way to develop a camera the size of a grain of salt.
As researchers say, “This will lead to a plethora of novel devices with tremendous impact on biotechnology, medical engineering, and safety/security monitoring.”
Sensors In The Age Of The IoT
From wearables and implantables to various micro-electromechanical systems and smart home appliances, sensors control much of the technology in our lives. The more you understand about them, the more you’ll know about where the tech industry is headed.
As the IoT continues to scale up and expand, sensors will play a significant role in this growth. According to one report, the global sensor technology market is set to grow at a CAGR of roughly 10.4 percent per year over the next decade, reaching a value of $242 billion by 2025.
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