The state of sensors


“Sensors” and “internet of things” are buzzwords that repeatedly come up during the National Convergence Technology Center’s (CTC) quarterly meetings with the Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) that helps shape program curriculum. 

Christopher Mims at Quartz, a digital news outlet, offers a thorough overview of the state of sensors today.

On one hand, to date, there just hasn’t been a widespread adoption of “smart” sensor technology:

…one of the most successful sellers of baubles that help make your home “smart,” Smartthings, has only shipped 10,000 or so units since its debut a year ago. (Compare that to, say, the 360 million smartphones sold in China in 2013 alone.) Remotely-operated light switches and weather-aware fridges may sound fun, but people have yet to be convinced that they can solve any pressing problems.

But we seem to be on the cusp of big changes.  For one thing, those of us with smartphones are already a part of the internet of things:

In a sense the internet of things is already with us. For one thing, anyone with a smartphone has already joined the club. The average smartphone is brimming with sensors—an accelerometer, a compass, GPS, light, sound, altimeter. It’s the prototypical internet-connected listening station, equally adept at monitoring our health, the velocity of our car, the magnitude of earthquakes and countless other things that its creators never envisioned. 

There are also big advances in technology that will make the internet of things a cheaper possibility for business and industry:

Until recently, connecting a device to the internet of things was expensive and difficult. Smart thermostats, lighting systems and appliances from giants like Samsung and GE communicated through obscure wireless standards that required installing specialized, internet of things-only wireless hubs. But in the past year or so, companies like Qualcomm, Intel and Texas Instruments have created inexpensive, power-efficient chips that enable pretty much anything to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, or to a mobile phone via a standard called Bluetooth Low Energy.

To see examples of all of this big thinking translates into actual products, CBR Online lists ten “internet of things” devices for 2014.

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