Sensor manufacturers need to wake up and smell the (IoT) coffee

13th March 2019
Posted By : Anna Flockett
Sensor manufacturers need to wake up and smell the (IoT) coffee

There are a wide range of sensors that can be exploited to measure almost all the physical properties around us. A few common sensors that are widely adopted in everyday life include thermometers, pressure sensors, light sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, motion sensors, gas sensors and many more. Sensors are usually described using properties such as range, sensitivity and resolution. 

Guest article written by Neil Hamilton, VP Business Development, Thingstream. 

The Internet of Things is estimated to contain more than 20 billion connected devices (a number that keeps rising). Lots of us use smartphones, wearables, and other similar devices, all of which use sensors. Sensors can monitor things like our health status, air quality, home security and many others. They are also widely used in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to monitor things like production production processes.

But in reality, are sensor manufacturers jumping onto this IoT bandwagon? They do not seem to be grasping the opportunity being presented to them by IoT. What is going on in the sensor market and is any manufacturer bucking the trend?

Sensing a missed opportunity
Sensors are the critical ingredient for any IoT solution. End customers are paying for the value a sensor generates through a solution stack. People leave buildings when smoke is detected, it is the photoelectric sensor which is the hero. By putting the hero at the centre of the story, AKA business case a sensor manufacturer could be charging for the value the sensor delivers to a business, not just for the physical component value of the sensor.

Admittedly not all sensors are heroes. However, when combined together they do become valuable ensembles of value. I believe that part of the challenge here is know-how - a sensor manufacturer isn’t a specialist in IoT and will not have the capability, or capacity, to provide their sensors in an easy to connect format for upstream makers, pro-makers and product manufacturers to easily work with to build prototypes.

Sensors and software in perfect harmony
I believe that those sensor manufacturers who do deliver their sensors in a ready-to-sense prototyping format will be the market leaders in coming years. This is partly because their customers are changing. Non-traditional engineering firms are now entering the IoT fray. Organisations that range from university hacksters, digital agencies who work in agile sprints to leading consultancies such as Deloitte who put teams of analysts into a room to create prototype devices for their customers. These organisations are looking to rapidly connect a sensor to a connected board which transmits the ‘sensor values’ directly into software applications to build prototypes…quickly. They often fail fast, learn, iterate and improve to a finished product in no time.

Is it hot in here?
Certain manufacturers are making this happen. Swiss-based Sensirion, the world’s leading manufacturer of temperature and humidity sensors actively promote various tools to enable developers to work with their sensor hardware. For prototypers looking to develop remotely connected sensing devices, they need to consider the ‘connected’ aspect. Using a globally wirelessly connected solution with Sensirion products is a super quick way to build a prototype which, not only works anywhere in the world but also enables the easy processing and transformation of the binary data into meaningful information for any upstream IoT application.

To realise the full potential of the IoT, sensor fabrication methods must continue to reduce the size, weight, power, and cost of the sensor component and system. The same trend needs to apply to sensor packaging, which currently accounts for as much as 80% of the overall cost and form factor. With thousands of different types of sensors in the market, providing them to makers in an easy to consume format is going to be really valuable, and those that do work to provide this will be tomorrow’s defacto market leaders.

What are you waiting for, sensor manufacturers? Wake up and sense the coffee.


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