Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Sensors Growth
An interview with Greg Montrose at TE Connectivity (TE) Sensor Solutions
Content originally published in Electronics Maker magazine on June 5, 2019.
Please tell us something about TE Connectivity Sensors business and products you are manufacturing.
As a global technology leader, TE Connectivity provides sensors and connectivity essential to today’s increasingly connected world. In fact, we are considered one of the largest sensor companies in the world. TE sensors are vital to the next-generation of data-driven technology. With expertise across a broad range of applications — automotive, industrial, medical, appliance, aerospace and defense, and industrial and commercial transportation — we have deep expertise working with manufacturers, and their design engineers. And TE offers a solution that can meet the growing demand, trends, and needs of this marketplace.
How do sensors play a key role in automating applications?
Sensors enable the measurement of various properties and convert the measurement into a signal for processing. This enables a better understanding of a system to increase automation and efficiency. For example, with the drive towards Industry 4.0 trends, the use of robotic, automation and control systems on the factory floor have become commonplace to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability. As the need for industrial robotic automation advances, sensing technology will continue to be the foundation for data collection that will help transform manufacturing floors into connected, cost effective, and reliable facilities. TE Connectivity (TE) offers numerous force, temperature, pressure and position sensors that provide highly accurate measurements for precise movement control and accurate monitoring of system components for preventative maintenance.
IIoT Smart Factory
TE sensors are the backbone of the growing IIoT, serving thousands of applications across hundreds of industries. We’ve created a sample of what that looks like—a virtual tour of the connected factory.
What are the key applications for TE Connectivity sensors products?
TE Connectivity’s sensor portfolio is diverse in the number of properties that can be measured (pressure, temperature, humidity, vibration, position, force, etc.) as well as the depth of various technologies within each property. This creates a wide and diverse range of applications for sensors. Applications include but are not limited medical equipment, industrial systems, automotive and commercial vehicles, and appliances.
TE has an unmatched portfolio of intelligent, efficient and high-performing connectivity and sensor solutions that are used for customers across several industries, from automotive, industrial and commercial transportation and aerospace and defense, to medical, industrial and consumer applications. TE is now one of the largest connectivity and sensor companies in the world, with innovative sensor solutions that help customers transform concepts into smart, connected creations.
What is your intelligence in sensor business?
While TE offers a wide portfolio of standard configurations and product platforms, we specialize in offering our engineering expertise to apply technologies to our customers more specific needs.
How do sensors enable IoT and what are your innovations in this space?
Like all industries, sensors enable IoT by providing the data for more informed decisions. TE Connectivity manufactures various sensors with digital output signals, multiple sensor outputs, and low current consumption to further support the IoT industry. Further, our portfolio has expanded to support wireless projects with Bluetooth and LoRa capabilities and our forthcoming IoT Mini Start wireless interface. This module provides a complete solution that includes sensing elements, electronics, a communications interface, and wireless capabilities which will allow customers to convert existing hard-wired sensors into a wireless sensing device with minimal set-up and configuration. More specifically, this connected device allows for experimentation in IIoT applications to enable testing and evaluation of connected systems.
How do your sensors products vary for different applications?
The differentiation of our sensors relates back to the process of working with our customers. Understanding the environmental conditions, interface requirements, and properties being measured can lead to either a unique combination of standard options or a custom design. For example, a specialty coating can be applied to a wearable altimeter sensor to increase it’s water-proof rating. A specialty metal can be chosen for an industrial application to withstand the corrosiveness of a liquid or gas in a process.
How do you see the market expansion for wearable sensors and your growth in this segment?
The expectation of connectivity anytime, anywhere drives the need for wearable products. Many key trends in healthcare, including wearable technology, have increased the need for sensors to not only monitor patient conditions but also link to centralized data systems to help medical personnel make more informed decisions. Electronic systems in medical equipment, devices and probes rely on sensor signals as a basis for control activities, accurate diagnosis and treatment. Those systems are evolving to include more sophisticated capabilities while maintaining or improving their reliability. They are becoming more intuitive to use and there continues to be a push towards more mobile and connected medical products for remote patient monitoring. Simultaneously, the healthcare industry is seeking to better manage costs while improving patient outcomes. From devices that serve to lower hospital readmission rates, to cost-effective solutions that serve remote patients, sensors are at the heart of changing healthcare dynamics.
Wearable Sensor Technology
Learn how TE is bringing wearable sensor technology to life.
In this webinar, TE Connectivity (TE) Fellow, Dave Wagner, shares an overview of sensor technology that is used in a wide range of medical applications and discusses how sensors are enabling the future of healthcare.
Which are the largest growing applications for your sensor products?
With recent trends focusing primarily on creating connected solutions, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), or Industry 4.0, space is proving to have the largest growth potential. These factory applications present enormous productivity potential for manufacturing customers since the ROI can be quickly realized using various TE sensing technologies. As the IIoT smart factory experience evolves, it will run on data — provided by TE Connectivity sensors. Some of the world’s largest manufacturers have already begun to integrate these technologies within manufacturing sites around the world — increasing productivity and decreasing unscheduled downtime via predictive maintenance sensing technologies— saving time and money.
How do you envision the next five years of sensor business?
Many of the advances will be incremental. We will continue to see progress along the axes of miniaturization, performance and price for digital and wireless sensing. There will also be an increasing emphasis on smart sensing, using on-board sensor capabilities to analyze data and transmit ’vital data’ rather than simply ’big data’. Sensor proliferation and sensor fusion will continue to accelerate as security within the IoT improves and makes it safer to transmit important data. That will enhance remote operating capabilities. While that is happening, the application of sensors to consumer devices will drive down cost and improve performance. In turn that will lead to adoption in other industries and open up applications that were previously unrealistic from a cost standpoint. From a technology standpoint, nanosensing offers a promising path to a true disruption, as do sensing polymers and advances in spectroscopy based on optical sensors.
TE Connectivity (TE) designed a survey for engineers on a variety of topics related to IoT design. We got responses from 180 engineers ... primarily senior engineers with a stated interest in consumer, industrial, and automotive IoT. Our survey explored IoT applications and design methods and then identified common challenges that exist across this space.
The Internet of Things is changing everything — everywhere. Yet the path and scope of those changes seem very unsettled — particularly for design engineers who have to fully understand and embrace the changes and how to best leverage them in new designs.
With this in mind, TE Connectivity (TE) designed a survey for engineers on a variety of topics related to IoT design. We got responses from 180 engineers ... primarily senior engineers with a stated interest in consumer, industrial, and automotive IoT. Our survey explored IoT applications and design methods and then identified common challenges that exist across this space.
So where do we stand just now, and is it just hype?
We think our survey assesses the opportunities and separates the hype from the reality. Here’s what we learned.
First, 5G will continue to expand the proliferation of IoT.
5G networked devices can be just about anything. With the ability to connect to thousands of devices at once at exceptionally fast speeds and low end-to-end latency, engineers anticipate 5G will have a significant impact on IOT applications. Nearly 60 percent of respondents believe the advent of 5G will mean getting data faster and that, in turn, will result in new applications of all kinds for IoT.
Second, engineers see several areas that they expect to dramatically shape IoT.
Here’s what we learned.
- 29% said the ability to capture different kinds of data was critical.
- 26% said gathering more data faster from applications was significant.
- 25% cited lower current consumption in IOT devices that would enable networks to reduce power consumption overall and therefore also diminish strain on data transmission.
- 19% mentioned the importance of smaller, miniaturized components.
Third, engineers think IoT requirements are not being fully met in a number of areas, and ranked these areas as most important:
- Hardware endurance: 57%
- Measurement accuracy tied with measurement stability: 52%
- Sensor intelligence: 46%
- Processing speed: 31%
- Cloud analytics: 16%
These last two areas – processing speed and cloud —were considered less vital.
Fourth, we found that miniaturization is universally seen as key to IoT development.
- 85% of survey participants overwhelmingly agreed, and 47% thought this was very true.
- Another 38% felt it was somewhat significant to the continued proliferation of the IoT.
- At the same time, 15% believe sensor miniaturization has already gone as far as is needed.
Fifth, we talked about how IoT is expected to evolve into what experts predict will be a pervasive network that connects virtually every aspect of our lives.
Survey participants see three common major challenges when designing for IoT.
The first two challenges were finding the right hardware and connectivity. Nearly half of respondents — some 49% mentioned these two challenges. We don’t think that is surprising given that today there are multiple wired and wireless options to connect IoT devices. All of these connectivity standards and technologies serve valuable purposes yet taking on all of those standards from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to Ethernet is a significant undertaking.
The third challenge was security — 44% mentioned this. Others mentioned developing the right software at 43% and cloud computing issues, trailing at 14%.
Sixth, when we asked how many engineers have really started their IoT solution design — we discovered that most seem to start at the same point.
The vast majority of engineers are beginning with hardware choices — 78% — while only 22% started by specifying software.
At TE Connectivity, we think all of these findings are exceedingly relevant today. We believe we are in the midst of what we call the fourth industrial revolution — the convergence of physical things with the Internet of Things. It’s why we think this data and our analysis is so important.
From the data, it is clear that IoT is here to stay, it’s growing, and will impact design engineers moving forward. TE Connectivity has extensive experience with engineers worldwide. We expect the growth of connected things within the next five to ten years to be very significant — and we plan to play a key role with our products. Let’s work together on the IoT opportunity.
Reach out to us today.
Learn more about Sensors
Personal IoT Sensors
TE Connectivity (TE) manufactures sensors for IoT applications from personal devices to the connected home and connected cars. With various analog and digital output signals as well as multi-sensor readings from a single device, TE sensors are enabling increases in personal efficiency and improvement.