Sensors Industry Group Sets the Bar, Sees the Future for IoT

At CES 2016, the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group held its fifth conference to focus on the technologies that quite literally enable the Internet of Things. The group’s executive director Karen Lightman notes that MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems) are both sensors and actuators, the latter being the key differentiating factor. “Not all MEMS are sensors and not all sensors are MEMS,” she said. “What’s exciting is that MEMS and sensors still offer new science and new ways of addressing challenging issues.”

Lightman points out that MEMS and sensors are already responsible for a tremendous amount of “good work,” including the many embedded in cars for airbags, tire pressure monitoring and anti-rollover and stability features. The industry is currently valued at between $11 and $14 billion and will surpass $30 billion in the next few years.

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The future, she says, is not simply sensors and MEMS but “interconnectedness” of everything from smart cities to industrial applications and health applications. “We have the technology to enable smart decisions and we’ll see that more and more in wearables,” she said.

Future applications include fingerprint sensors, environmental sensors, gesture recognition, light sensors, flexible printing electronics, 3D ultrasounds, gene sequencing and autonomous cars. “We’re just at the cusp of what this all can enable,” said Lightman.

The ecosystem that develops from the use of MEMS and sensors is energizing emerging business models, “captured at the software and analytics level.”

“How can we work together so that we can create more business opportunities throughout the ecosystem?” she asks. “There’s great opportunity there. The bottom line is that it’s about collaboration and co-creation.”

The largest growth in MEMS and sensors in the near future are health; agriculture; smart global infrastructure; clean environment and energy; and emerging energy harvesting and power management.

“There are still challenges,” said Lightman. “The three-legged stool for moving forward is standards and operability; power and power management; and security at the sensor node level. You’ve got to have security.”

The MEMS & Sensors Technical Congress will take place March 7-8 in Munich, Germany.