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Smart sensors are the need of the hour

By Posted on March 1, 2016
Blog

Swad Komanduri
Manager, Market Analysis (VFA), NextEnergy

With the rapid growth of connected technologies, the ability for machines to send, receive, and process information is enabling automation at an unprecedented scale. One of the key markets that is intricately tied to this increase in computational ability is the global sensors market. The software boom has made machine accessible information vital to the digital economy. However, for automation to reach its full potential, it is not enough for machines to simply use information efficiently, they must also be able to gather information in new and innovative ways. Without an occupancy sensor, smart lighting controls wouldn’t be feasible. Without a smoke detector, automated sprinkler systems wouldn’t be able to function properly. Similarly, without cameras, and LIDAR and radar detectors, autonomous driving would not be possible.

A key driver of the sensor market is the automotive industry. With increasing efficiency needs and the push towards automation, the automotive industry is driving the growth in the global sensor market. According to this report, the market for light sensors alone is expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 10% by 2020, driven primarily by automotive needs. For steering system sensors, this rate is projected to be over 13%. This explosive growth is estimated to make the sensor market worth over $100 Billion by 2020 at an overall CAGR of over 10%. The figure below shows a glimpse of all the sensors that are used in an autonomous vehicle.

Sensor innovation is prime for growth not only in existing sensors, but also in the development of new sensors. Right now sensors can be used to monitor light, moisture, temperature, pressure, chemical properties, and torque among other things. However, there still remains tremendous opportunity in the development of sensors that enable machines to perceive in ways that they have never perceived before. If the camera enabled machines to see, is there a sensor that can enable machines to smell? One area of innovation for new sensors is true wireless sensors enabled by energy harvesting. Sensors are most effective when they can be installed without having to depend on external power or network wiring. Because they are generally low energy devices, energy harvesting is emerging as a viable method of powering sensors.

While sensors themselves are integral to the connected technology ecosystem, the major value add will come from sensors with integrated software systems that can translate sensor data into a language that other systems can understand and act upon. Sensors without software, or sensors with embedded software that is not easily accessible to existing systems will increase the cost of solution development. As sensors become increasingly integrated into a variety of systems, the development of standards for sensors will likely be a necessary development. This is particularly pertinent for sensors that can cut across applications and solution spaces, such as those being developed by AMF Nano.

Overall, the market for sensors is set for rapid growth, and development of new sensor technology is crucial to enabling increased automation.

For more information, contact Swad Komanduri: swadk@nextenergy.org

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