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Making sense out of sensors

weather monitoring sensors near a lake

How this ‘underrated’ technology spells big opportunity for developers

Rudimentary sensors were invented well over a century ago and helped put the first thermostat on the market. More than 100 years later, research shows that creators are still thinking about sensors, but they continue to classify them in a sweeping, monolithic category. These general attitudes about sensors were illustrated in a recent Avnet survey of our element14 and Hackster communities to identify what is essential to product developers. One of the survey’s key takeaways? Some 61 percent of respondents said IoT and sensors are the most critical technologies for products they’re designing today.

Here’s what startled me the most: the fact that creators are still viewing sensors as the single most underrated technology driving the innovation train. When I read that, I thought: “Wow, developers think sensors are underrated?” There are sensors in almost everything these days, except maybe the coffee you are drinking now (and I can’t even guarantee that).  

If your business interests touch anywhere within the sensor community, the “underrated” designation is exciting.  Why? Because if creators still don’t think that sensors are getting the attention they deserve now, then there really is no limit to where the IoT can go.

The only boundaries lie in the imagination of creators, start-ups, and their end-to-end partners.  As transformative as technology has been, I think the past 30 years may have just been a warm-up act to the main show which is only just now beginning. Today is an exhilarating time to be occupying this space and to be able access to so much of the technological expertise to transform fantasy into reality.

From soup to sensors

What is happening with sensors now, though, is not uncommon in the life cycle of a product.

For instance, for a generation, people thought of supermarket soup as a single category dominated by a red and white label. While that used to be the extent of the conversation on soup, as the category matured, it became clear there was room for other brands and varieties : low sodium, no sodium, vegetarian, spicy, ethnic, large cans, small cans, powders, and packets and on and on. Once it became clear that soup was not just an overarching category but a dynamic, organic area of the supermarket, it became ripe for innovation.

The soup trajectory is one that happens with many products; maturity cultivates opportunity. The same will happen and is happening now, with sensors. The time has never been more right for innovation in the category. Sensors can still be viewed at a high level, but the IoT is transforming the way developers think about nuances and how those impact their inventions. As it is becoming more and more clear what sensors can do, and their capabilities mature, the “sensor aisle” will change in much the same way the “soup aisle” has.

Connecting the dots on sensor types, applications

A developer with a conceptual smart “temperature sensor” isn’t specific enough. Factors like power utilization, motion, distance, and environment are just a few of the scores of considerations that go into developing and, for that matter, choosing a sensor. Plus, have you considered how to integrate that sensor into a power grid built in 1971? 

Often there are multiple considerations to evaluate beyond the sensor’s primary purpose. This is especially true in environmental projects.  According to a survey of 1042 engineers of IoT solutions in 51 countries conducted by Newark element14, environmental sensors are the most commonly used. 

For instance, if planning an environmental IoT project that is supposed to measure pollutant levels in a drainage ditch to make sure the company complies with emission regulations, a sensor is needed that will operate within the required physiochemical parameters. It needs to be able to measure the particulates but also withstand the possible corrosion from continued exposure to trace amounts of chemicals, possible salinity in the water, algae, and lack of oxygen. The sensor needs to meet target budgetary goals and be able to be integrated into factory technology that predates IoT. All of that takes not just an “environmental sensor” but a very specific type, with specific form factor, temperature and ruggedization considerations.

Industrial sensors are close behind environmental sensors in complex deployments. Sensors in factory settings often have equally harsh conditions to endure. Sensors in a steel mill that are measuring oxidation in the metallurgical processes will need to withstand extreme heat. Platinum or a mineral insulated thermocouple that can handle the heat, brings IoT into the heart and hearth of manufacturing. The market for industrial IoT sensors is exploding, and along with it the opportunities for developers and creators.

Sensor support from partners

Sensors can collect data and, using AI, interpret data. They can measure pressure and send signals. Sensors can be traffic cops, inventory managers, supply chain monitors, cardiologists, blood pressure monitors, kidney function managers, or even agriculturists, horticulturists and data interpreters—a huge green field for developers willing to dig deep into new sensor applications for a variety of industries.

Working with an end-to-end partner, with access to experts that have experience in development, can speed the production cycle and open opportunities faster.  We sense it, and your sensor should too.

 

The Top Sensors for IoT Projects

 Classification  Application  Example Types
 Environmental

Focused on assessing pollutants or toxins ranging from air quality measurement in smart cities to soil monitoring for contamination

  • Air Quality
  • Humidity
  • Smoke Detector
 Motion

Featured heavily in occupancy and security systems, detecting motion and even working in concert with LEDs for protection

  • Passive Infrared
  • Microwave
  • Vibration
 Optical/image Turn lights into signals to measure different levels of the intensity of light, which is helpful for ambient light sensors on phones or embedded vision cameras
  • Fiber Optic
  • Proximity Detector
  • Photodetector
  • Infrared
 Health-monitoring  Wearable and flexible sensors help for real-time monitoring of physical, thermal and electrophysical health signals for medical wearables or even robotics
  • Pressure
  • Temperature
  • Accelerometer
  • Flow 

 

 

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Invest in the Future with IoT
March 20, 2017
You and I have known for a long time that connected devices are becoming pervasive throughout society, and it seems like the investment world is finally catching up.
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IoT Security: Real Problems and Solutions
By Guillaume Crinon   -   March 18, 2017
Learn about the real issues behind “IoT security,” and challenges for customers both from hardware and embedded / server software aspects.
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It’s Time For The Government And The Internet Of Things
March 18, 2017
The Internet of Things or IoT has become quite the well-known term in the past year or two. What started out as a radical concept – connecting everything to everything else and to the Internet!
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Internet of Things: Low Power, Low Cost Connected Devices Fuel Demand for Microco
March 17, 2017
At the heart of the devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) are a variety of ultra low power microcontrollers (MCUs), sensor networks, systems-on-chip (SoC) and communications protocols such as ZigBee. These underlying technologies operate
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One-Click Manufacturing: Could It Really Be That Easy?
March 16, 2017
One click manufacturing (OCM) is a concept that arose from the 3D printing world: design a 3D model of a part ...
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Finding the best wireless option for your IoT design
March 16, 2017
The Internet of Things (IoT) relies on a facile communications framework able to move data easily between embedded "things" and systems located at higher levels of the IoT hierarchy.
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The Edge to Enterprise - Avnet and IBM Partner to Deliver IoT Offering
March 13, 2017
This white paper examines the Internet of Things market with a lens on the complexity of the vendor ecosystem and how partnerships are enabling holistic solutions to come to market.
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Internet of Things: Designing Sensor-Based Devices with Coin Cell Batteries
March 13, 2017
A popular vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that it will comprise billions of sensors gathering information about their local environment and transmitting that data back to servers in the cloud. Such data will be compiled, analyzed and shared
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Smart Cities: What To Look For In 2016 And Beyond
March 11, 2017
In a recent article in Government Technology, IDC research director Ruthbea Yesner Clarke discusses three trends emerging around the growing smart cities movement
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Indispensable Building Blocks of Mobile IoT Devices
March 10, 2017
The concept of IoT connected devices connotes many different ideas. Some think of data centers full of servers, network switches and storage arrays aggregating untold gigabytes of random data. Others identify with Ethernet-enabled devices in their pl
bee polinating a puple flower field
What’s All The Buzz About? Bees And Smart Map Technology
March 8, 2017
You’ve heard about the problems with the bees, right? Their population numbers are dwindling and that’s not good news.
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Will HaLow open the door for more intelligent systems?
March 7, 2017
Reporting on the recent announcement of the “long-awaited Wi-Fi HaLow standard for products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah wireless networking technology,” Jim Hunter of Tech Crunch explains why this new standard may pave the way for more connected
conceptual graphic of IoT icons around a blue globe
An Introduction to IoT Components
March 7, 2017
From locomotives and jet engines to baby monitors and home appliance controls, new applications are challenging the imaginations of designers — both in startup companies and within giant corporations.
Graphic depicting the Internet of Things
For industry 4.0, reliability builds on robust connections
March 6, 2017
Looking to relieve increasing product complexity and cost pressures, manufacturers are moving toward the next phase of industrial automation envisioned in Industry 4.0.
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What To Do With All That Data
March 6, 2017
Just as important as the hardware and the data it collects in an Intelligent System are the tools we need to process and analyze information. Otherwise, an Intelligent System does nothing to serve our purposes.
Binary code
Driving data with unintentional new uses: Internet of Things
March 3, 2017
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a natural evolution of the things we already make today.
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Cognitive computing and IBM Watson IoT: unlocking the power of information
March 3, 2017
Businesses, academic institutions, cities, and other enterprises may have diverse objectives and missions but all have two things in common: Data, lots of it.
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Circuit Protection: Helping Drive Reliability and Longer Life
March 3, 2017
The primary concerns of engineers designing mobile devices connected to the IoT remain device functionality, performance and feature set.
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Avnet: your key enabler for efficient IoT product development
March 3, 2017
There’s no shortage of hype when it comes to IoT! Fashion designers, futurists, gadget geeks, salespeople...
Depiction of a digitally connected city
Antennas for RF Designs in the IoT
March 3, 2017
The physical connection for many IoT nodes leverages legacy wired networks found in homes, offices, schools, factories and other areas. As we become mobile, wireless physical connections are becoming the norm.
Graphic depicting Wi-Fi connectivity
A “Canned” Module/IC Solution Simplifies Wireless Implementation, but Potential Design-in Issues Remain
March 2, 2017
Incorporating wireless connectivity into a product is now a standard design requirement for Wi-Fi, IoT, and other applications.
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10 companies and municipalities that are harnessing the Internet of Things to run smarter cities
March 2, 2017
Many of the devices we interact with today are enabled by computers and connected to the Internet. Much of the popular interest in the Internet of Things (IoT) focuses on consumer electronics, with everything from smart refrigerators to thermostats,
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10 things every intelligent systems needs
March 1, 2017
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way businesses use technology. This web of interconnected devices and machines gathers information from gas-oil-water exploration sensors to sensors in corn fields, to medical devices and train control

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