At the recent Sensors Expo & Conference in San Jose, California, industry engineers, professionals, and observers gathered to discuss and survey the latest developments in sensors as the devices, a mainstay in industrial and electronics manufacturing, adjust to a slew of new technological forces and a rapidly changing environment.
Billed as North America’s largest event focusing on sensors and sensor solutions, the expo featured 10 conference tracks that put sensors in the context of disruptive variables like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, while also addressing foundational concerns such as sensor applications, measurement and detection, and simplifying complex sensor data.
Some of the main trends at the show included the following:
At the expo, several companies proposed solutions for the industrial IoT that primarily used vibration detection through accelerometers. Even so, some deployed a more innovative approach, using MEMS microphones as vibration detectors.
Also on hand at the show were companies traditionally focused on the industrial segments, such as Massachusetts-based Analog Devices Inc. and TE Connectivity from Switzerland, that demonstrated how modules and connectivity could be easily integrated or embedded into machines that require monitoring, such as engines, tools, and—eventually—vehicles.
With the use of sensors in equipment, machines can be monitored in real time and data generated—fundamental components of condition monitoring in machinery that can then be used for predictive maintenance and other smart factory applications.
Biometric solutions and presence detection
Different technology solutions are increasingly available to enable actual or new functionalities in 3D sensing and presence detection. These technologies, showcased at the expo, include optical, ultrasonic, and radar, which have become options in sensor solutions for detecting presence.
With radar and radio mmWave technologies, sensors can now detect with very high accuracy levels a human heartbeat and the respiratory rate. Such presence detection can be useful in scenarios where some form of monitoring might be needed or prove helpful—e.g., for senior citizens and the state of their health; or for car drivers to monitor their movements while inside a vehicle.
As more companies move from being suppliers of silicon to purveyors of solutions, sensors are being enriched with sophisticated software libraries, cutting-edge algorithms, and custom integration support to serve customers. The show bears this out, especially for industrial IoT applications and vibration-monitoring apps—two areas where a solution package for sensors is even more important than for other market segments.
This is because many companies in those two segments are of midsize range and cannot afford to invest in R&D or data analytics. However, if a third party—which could also be the sensor supplier—is a source of expertise on those aspects, the third party and sensor supplier could then support its customers in integrating and customizing solutions for the specific equipment to be monitored.
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