Manufacturing, Biomed, Smart Cities Fuel IoT Sensor Market


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The Internet of Things gets a lot of buzz, although grumps may grumble that the basic idea is as old as the centrifugal governors invented by 17th century physicist Christiaan Huygens and later adapted by James Watt for his steam engine. Placing sensors on machines to regulate performance has always made the machines more efficient and powerful.

But IoT sensors are more advanced and ubiquitous than anything before seen. They are tied into the operation of not just a single machine, but an entire system. And the market for sensors is responding by plowing money into both sensor sales and R&D.

Global IoT sensor revenue keeps climbing. Image: IoT One

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Where will that interest lead in the near term? Frost & Sullivan, the international consulting firm, recently released “2018 Top Technologies in Sensors and Instrumentation: Automotive, Healthcare, Industrial, and Consumer Electronics Sectors Drive Opportunities for Advanced Sensing Technologies,” a report that looked at some top sensor technologies and their potential impact on industry. Some of those, such as electronic skin and flexible, large-area sensors, will remain relatively small between now and 2022. But Frost & Sullivan contends that others will become multi-billion dollar technology segments.

The largest sensor and instrumentation segment, according to the report, will remain the so-called smart sensors, which not only make measurements but also process data, transmit the processed data to a central location, report on their own health, and control their operating conditions. The technology is forecast to command a cumulative market of $121 billion between 2016 and 2022, driven by widespread adoption in manufacturing, biomedical devices, and smart city applications.

While smart sensors are building from a large existing base, two other sensor technologies are poised to break out. Advanced driver assistance systems, which provide the eyes for self-driving cars, and gesture recognition systems are both predicted to have a cumulative market opportunity of between $40 billion and $50 billion by 2022, with most of that occurring in the coming years.

Although self-driving cars may be the ultimate destination for driver assistance, Frost & Sullivan sees other near-term applications. “Advancements in sensors and software that provide enhanced situational awareness, will ultimately reduce the rate of vehicle accidents,” according to the report. “It will also enable individuals, for example blind or elderly, to have access to auto transportation.”

Gesture recognition also has some key interim uses. The Kinect gaming system was one early application of gesture recognition, and the gaming sector is working to more seamlessly adapt gesture sensing to virtual reality-based gaming. But Frost & Sullivan sees gestural interfaces as having important impacts in accessing automobile controls without physically reaching for them and for surgeons who may want to use operating-room computers without having to touch them.

In time, advanced sensors will become so embedded in our lives that we’ll stop thinking about them. For now, however, they look to remake large portions of our world.

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Advancements in sensors and software that provide enhanced situational awareness, will ultimately reduce the rate of vehicle accidents.”

Frost & Sullivan

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October 2018

by Jeffrey Winters, Senior Editor, Mechanical Engineering magazine