According to Headwaters, an investment bank in Denver, the $85 billion sensor market has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 7.5 percent over the past three years. This market is expected to grow to more than $115 billion by 2019.
Nowhere is demand more significant than in the industrial space, accounting for more than a third of the sensor market. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is expected to stimulate huge demand for sensors. As articles from Automation World and Automation.com point out, IIoT is nothing without sensors to measure pressures, positions, temperatures and other important production parameters. The fundamental components of an automation (or other) system are sensors, because they are the “eyes, ears, and fingers” of any system. Sensors and IIoT essentially feed off of each other. As IIoT applications grow, the sensor market will expand. Likewise, continued innovation in sensor technologies is helping to fuel the expansion of IIoT capabilities.
As a more mature end market, industrial applications focus on high-end rather than high-volume production with demand for sensors that can be used in harsh environments with high reliability, precision and miniaturization. And as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications become more sophisticated, sensors are helping to enable predictive maintenance, asset monitoring and data analytics for production efficiency gains.
In process automation, systems for process control, process safety, operations management and asset optimization call for the increased use of sensors for measurement and analytical instrumentation as well as control for industrial settings. Headwaters reports, “The recurring theme of integrating multiple sensor technologies with software analytics will enhance the speed and precision of the information flow driving production performance, reliability and safety…leading to superior products or processes.”
There are a number of interesting developments that provide a glimpse into the near future of sensing. More sensors are showing up in the automotive industry (with connected and self-driving cars creating a huge demand) and healthcare applications (health monitoring and medical diagnostics being key). Furthermore, an Israeli firm has developed the world’s first nanotech-based “electronic nose” to sniff out security threats like bombs, biological warfare agents and toxic liquids. The system was designed by Tel Aviv-based Tracense Systems and can detect even the smallest amounts of material. “Our ‘laboratory-on-a-chip’ nano-sensors can detect a wide range of chemical threats, such as explosives, chemical and biological warfare agents, in air, solid and liquid samples, at extremely low concentrations, unmatched by existing technologies,” said Dr. Ricardo Osiroff, the company’s CEO. “Our system meets and beats the capabilities of sniffing dogs and other animals.” Given all of this information, sensor technologies appear to be just scratching the surface of their potential.
(Photo: Flat Chip Temperature Sensors, Flickr)