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Future of sensors in IoT.

Opportunities and future of sensors in space, biotech, security...

A) Why sensors are not a commodity?

B) Improvements needed in sensors: Privacy, upgradeable, scalable...

C) Sensors business opportunities: Space, biotech, materials...

A) Why sensors are not a commodity?

It’s not exaggerated saying sensors are the spine of the Internet of Things (IoT), but it might be more accurate to say they’re the central nervous system. The continuous improvements in the fabrication of sensors can make us think that sensors are now just a commodity. But I don't agree.

It's true some of the biggest gains have come from improvement of CMOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor). The density of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 month due to advanced manufacturing techniques (Moore’s Law). Other biggest improvements during last years where CPU capacity and how sensors draw very little “leakage current” while they are “sleeping”

As Koomey’s Law says: the chips will do the same amount of work with half as much energy every 18 months. Let's analyze the biggest improvements of sensor technologies.

1. EVERYTHING CAN BE A SENSOR NOW

Our mobile devices can see, hear and speak. These devices are capable robots in our hands, awaiting the software updates to upgrade awareness into contextual understanding.

We can already use cameras and existing sensors and just connect them to the internet. Without new hardware. Our smartphones and tablets are virtual sensors and can have enough information. Advanced wireless sensors for acoustics noise, vibration, and corrosion are already available, most of them in our phone.

Our mobile devices can see, hear and speak. inputs and outputs that create a deep awareness of the world around us. These devices are capable robots in our hands, awaiting the software updates to upgrade awareness into contextual understanding.

2. WE CAN UPDATE SENSORS FIRMWARE

For many devices it is already possible to update the device firmware from a central location - even while controlling, without bumping the process. This enables devices to take advantage of new feature enhancements and stay evergreen.

3. ACCESSIBLE SENSORS

Welcome to the "hypersense" revolution. Sensors are affordable, battery is long enough and evangelization of small single-board computers increased demand. Nowadays everyone can build their own smart solution!

A 'hypersense' revolution as big as the Web

Each industry is undergoing its own information transformation. These are fuelled by a rapid growth in sensors via machine learning and new forms of contextual computing and communications. This 'hypersense' revolution is big enough that we can say that 'cognitive' is the new 'mobile'.

The machines can increasingly initiate action in the world on behalf of people. This is a collective phenomenon akin to the arrival of the Web in the 1990s.

Some people call it the 'Decision Matrix'.

The ubiquitous of decision Matrix is a lie (for now)​

Gartner predicted IoT market size will reach $60,5 billion in 2015 but McKinsey this year published a report estimating IoT market only moved $900 million in 2015.

Wearables sales expected to hit 64 million units worth 10 billion by 2017 and Juniper research said smart Wearable Device Shipments, expected to exceed 100m by 2017.

There's barely 19 million units worth only 2,9 million dollars in 2016. (Source) And Device Shipments only reached 12 m last year. Where is the sensor commodity here?

None of this happened. Same with Smart-home and Smart Cities. We've been talking about it for 20 years.

“The smart city was the wrong idea pitched in the wrong way to the wrong people,” suggested Dan Hill, of urban innovators the Future Cities Catapult. “It never answered the question: ‘How is it tangibly, materially going to affect the way people live, work, and play?

IoT was supposed to reach $60,5 billion in 2015, the truth is that IoT market size only achieved $900 million in 2015.

Let me share with you why I think is not a commodity, first, there's no commodity without big market size. Secon it won’t happen at least yet because sensors still need to evolve. It’s true the evolution has been fast, but there’s still many developments to make. Sensors need to be replaced often and data storage is facing challenges just local processsing will be able to solve:

Local processing is required to reduce the otherwise untenable Internet traffic challenges that arise from connecting billions of devices. It makes more sense structurally and economically to execute these interactions in a more distributed architecture near the sensors and actuators where the application-context prevails. Companies by ignoring this improvements just because it’s difficult to perceive an alternative future, are leaving the door open for competition that will lead to the eventual obsolescence of the hardware…

As the Internet of Things opportunity matures, the sensor and actuator devices will all become smart themselves and the connectivity between them (devices, for the most part, that have never been connected). There’s still a lot of investment to make in sensors, we need more complex sensors.

Next generation of sensors will be the ones that will be used massively, when the infraestructure is ready and demand to do it. As the Internet of Things opportunity matures, the sensor and actuator devices between them will become more intelligent and the interactions more complex.

After four years in the sector. Internet of things is the answer but the solution is in the question.

B) Improvements neeeded in sensors:

1.EDGE ANALYTICS — The more data analysis is performed at the sensor level, the more powerful the sensor is. Embedding data analysis capabilities reduces latency, offloads network traffic and facilitates reactions to neighboring devices.

Market is swinging towards server-based analytics towards edge-based analytics. Leading vendors, such as Bosch, have already announced that all of their IP cameras will feature edge analytics capability

Even with a significant amount of advanced analytics taking place in the Cloud, essence and effectivity of the IoT concept will be measured by the degree of intelligence at the edge.

2. RICH AND HIGH-RESOLUTION DATA — This is a preliminary requirement, as all further processing are based on raw input data. We still find problems with sensors that need to capture concrete data.

3. HIGHLY SECURED — The main security problems can mainly be attributed to two key factors: the loss of control over network devices and the lack of visibility over the potential security problems affecting these devices.

IoT endpoints, such as connected sensors are very susceptible to cyberattacks.

A multilayer security approach using encryption keys and secured protocols must be implemented by design. IoT endpoints, such as connected sensors then are very susceptible to cyberattacks. Blockchain or cryptography will be able tosecure communications, data storage and identity, but won’t prevent sensors from being manipulated.

The main security problems can mainly be attributed to two key factors: the loss of control over network devices and the lack of visibility over the potential security problems affecting these devices.

A recent comparative study in smart cities, consisted in anomaly detection techniques for smart city wireless sensor networks discovered differences between sensors.

How we prevent people manipulating the hardware sensor manually?

4. PRIVACY PROTECTED — The multitude of data enabled by sophisticated sensors may include sensitive personal information. In places where privacy is expected (e.g., home, healthcare, workplace), effective privacy protection measures should be implemented. Everyone could access the sensor and obtain data from it. How we prevent people manipulating the hardware sensor manually?

5. UPGRADEABLE — In view of the expected lifecycle of sensors and the rapid technological changes, smart sensors must be “future-proof,” allowing for remote firmware updates.

6. SCALABLE — Sensors should be configured such that their numbers can be easily scaled. Plugging more sensors into a network should be simple and straightforward.

7. EASILY COMMISSIONED — Setting up smart sensors for an IoT system can be a rather lengthy and expensive process. It is therefore vital that the sensors be designed for easy installation and commissioning using automated or semi-automated processes.

Is vital that the sensors will be designed for easy installation and automated processes.

8. INTEROPERABLE — Given the lack of standardization and the increasing variety of ecosystems and platforms, smart sensors should be designed from the ground up to support leading communication protocols to fit within the diversified ecosystems.

9. AFFORDABLE — In order for smart sensors to proliferate, it is highly critical that they be inexpensive. While this precondition often conflicts with the long list of required features and capabilities, there is no room for compromise here, as pricing is a crucial gating factor.

10. BATTERY — The initial expectation was sensor’s batteries should last 7-8 years, and some did fail within that window — some failed even sooner. But normally the problem is not as easy as changing the old battery for a new one. Why? Because sometimes just the change can generate modifications in frequency, data and if it happens suddenly it changes all your statistics and historical information.

For perpetual sensing, the biggest obstacle is battery life. While there has been enormous interest in using ambient energy to recharge capacitors or batteries, from solar to vibration, pressure, thermal differentials, and various other sources, the lifespan of rechargeable batteries has been the gating factor. Other factors include temperature tolerance, form factor, safety, and charge retention, the latter of which is compounded by the unpredictability of the energy source.

11. AUTOMATION IN SENSORS — Automation systems may be able allow for this with networked sensors. Will we see more “Undo” buttons in automation software? For instance, Foundation fieldbus “Virtual Marshalling” allows sensors to be added and deleted, and signals in these devices to be added and deleted. But we think some of them will need.

12. AUTONOMOUS SENSORS — Sensor swarms coordinate their activities, decide what to measure and where through a self-learning system directing their movements and collecting data.

13. UNIFIED SENSORS — “Instead of having a bunch of sensors throughout the home, we may have one sensor that monitors everything,” We will need something, for everything cheaper. That is, digitally networked sensors can measure several variables. So they are not limited to a single measurement per device.

14. MINIATURIZATION — Miniaturization is an strategy of success inmodern technologies. Consisting in reducinc the dimensions, it usually results in shorter response times so that a correspond-ingly higher speed is achievable in signal generation andprocessing.

C) Business opportunities:

SENSORS NOT COVERING ALL NEEDS OF THE MARKET

1) "Unobservable" detection sensors, opens new ways in the detection of biological risks, smells, material stresses, pathogens, corrosion levels and chemicals in the material.

2) Solutions regarding 3D image sensors. In order to implement concepts such as the digital twin, and to apply predictive and prescriptive analytics, it will become necessary to process more of the unstructured data at the edge device rather than just accumulate data at edge computing levels.

3) Depth resolution decreases with the increase of the number of FPS, so there’s still resolution in cameras and video sensors.

4) Vibration sensors. Sensors have historically been prone to excessive drift due to error sources such as shock and vibration. This puts extra accuracy requirements upon GPS/GNSS, accelerometers, and local wireless networks to maintain accuracy. Still finding problems when, for example, a car goes into a tunnel.

5) Sensors for the detection of gases and density in the air. Future will detect also elements and possibly atoms.

6) Energy sensors, detection of energy generates complications so to uncover them, sampling is done at thousands of samples per second.

7) Intelligent dust, microscopic sensors powered by vibrations, monitor situations ranging from battlefield activities, structural strength of buildings and obstruct arteries.

8) Self-healing sensors, they are repaired in case of disaster or other structural disturbances.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES​

1. SPACE SENSORS

New Space Race sensors in the new satellite race for satellite imagery. Higher definition images are produced from large satellites, which have larger lenses but are much more expensive to build and launch because of their size. Due to their significant cost, there are fewer of them in orbit. And there’s a need of better lenses and cheaper. Fewer satellites in the constellation means less frequent coverage of land, or narrower swaths of land covered more frequently. Private companies monitoring, oil reserves, water consumption, logistics, cars and even commodities etc…

That's what Lanet Labs and Terra Bella have been doing.

2. BIO-MICRO SENSORS:

Sensors in the human body. Micro-sensor implants in patients track the healing process of internal injuries, allow health professionals to take corrective measures based on continuous data from the system.

1) Biodegradable sensors control soil moisture and nutrient content for optimum crop production. 2) Live cell detection, an amalgam of sensor technology and living cells, allows the scientist to understand the biological effect of drugs, the environment and biological hazards. 3) Self-powered sensors that work with the difference in heat between the patient's body and the surrounding air will find applications in medical care.

3. SENTINENT MATERIALS:

A new generation of materials is being developed that can sense temperature, pressure, impact and other variables — completely removing the need for sensors. Example of anisotropic materials in action. Unlike isotropic materials, their behavior isn’t predetermined, so their performance can be tailored to their environment.

Airbus is already doing important research in this area at the University of Bristol’s National Composites Centre, moving us closer to an aviation industry shaped by smart materials. ZERO+.

Future is about not only sensors capturing data about their environment, but also adjust their performance based on that data.

IIoT as we know it can probably use the sensors we already have. They will need to be more secure, scalable and efficient, but can work perfectly in automation as SCAD used to work. In my opinion won’t be just until the next generation of sensors appear, the ones we can’t even imagine yet, that we will really transform industrial landscape creating the revolution we were promised.

Sensors with capacity and self-awareness will be needed. For example, where the same sensor processor is used to turn the lights on, change the heating or cooling profile or alert security. Companies ignoring this simply because have to wait until hardware will be created are leaving the door open for competition that will lead to the eventual obsolescence of the same hardware, sensors they use…

Digitally networked sensors will enable the "mix and match" approach at the device level, stimulating app development - leading to overall market expansion and solving biological, space, business projects.

We don’t have to see them as sensors. We don't need to see them as a camera: but as an upgraded eye. It’s not a microphone, it’s a super-ear. It’s not a speaker, it’s the most complex-mouth. Just then, we will manage to create new business models. Sensors will reach their goal when sensors become “senses”.

Scientists have come up with a way of creating sensors which could allow machines to sense more accurately humans. Imagine sensors that will detect inputs humans can’t even detect. We don’t have yet all what we need to analyze the variables. But the next generation of sensors will receive data we don’t even use nowadays in our daily activities, data that can be analyzed by hi-tech elements not like us.

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