Without sensors, computers would have no input. And with garbage sensors, we have garbage in and, hence, garbage out. Good, reliable sensors are invaluable to designers. As such, sensors are becoming evermore complex and inherent to the success of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Editor Bill Wong talked with Jen Gilburg, Senior Director of Strategy, Sensor Solutions, at TE Connectivity, about sensor technology, specifically where we are and where we’re headed.
Jen Gilburg, Senior Director of Strategy, Sensor Solutions, TE Connectivity
Why is 2019 the year of the sensor?
If you look at the evolution of IoT in the market, much of the early conversation focused on what to do with the data, the analytics, AI, etc., and how this would drive ROI.
From predictive analytics, to building maintenance, to smart-X, the early proof of concepts (PoC) focused on demonstrating WHAT you can do with the data and not about HOW you acquire it. Since the ROI is now proven, the next logical focus area is ensuring the quality, security, and accuracy of the data to inform your process. This is where sensors play a critical role.
TE Connectivity has focused on this critical element of IoT, which has only accelerated as the industry drives toward complete end-to end-solutions. According to a Million Insights report, the industrial IoT (IIoT) market is expected to reach $922.62 billion by 2025 as a result of greater factory efficiency and productivity, which makes IoT business cases far more compelling in 2019 and beyond.
What do you see as the biggest growth areas for IoT?
Gartner predicts more than 65% of enterprises will adopt various IoT applications by 2020. Especially in the consumer industry you’re seeing the race between large tech firms to control the smart-home environment. Within the large-scale industrial industry, smart-city and smart-agriculture solutions are emerging. Projects are now evolving from the PoC phase and into “field trials” that are established to test larger-scale implementation.
From what we’ve observed, the use cases that have the fastest adoption also have the most obvious ROI. These include asset tracking, cold chain processes, and condition-monitoring applications where full-scale deployments are happening.
Are there any collaboration initiatives occurring to ensure that the IoT ecosystem is working together?
Collaboration is now more important than ever.
Companies are realizing they need to partner to provide end-user value via a full end–to-end solution. In some cases, this means that companies are working together to deliver on specific use cases while, at the same time, competing on other opportunities. The partnership model for IoT is evolving as most companies in the industrial and sensor space do not have readily available partner support or the necessary resources, requiring collaboration to be successful.
In the end, the companies having the most success are those that have developed a partnership ecosystem. And, this ecosystem will continue to evolve, which will push traditional sensor, industrial, and hardware suppliers to realize that successful IoT applications will be driven by a strong partner program.
How is TE Connectivity driving innovation in IoT?
IoT is here to stay and process improvements are advancing by the day. Across the board, industrial companies are adding elements of IoT, including wireless sensors, to existing equipment, which makes packaging and size critically important.
TE Connectivity has expertise in developing solutions to meet these ever-changing needs. This includes creating sensor solutions for various packaging footprints with low power consumption, as well as the ability to withstand harsh operating environments.
In addition, with the push for smaller PoC approaches for IIoT, TE is creating an innovative sensor toolkit, the IoT Start, to help engineers “get started” with developing IoT applications and apply these learnings to future IoT efforts (see figure). This toolkit, which includes sensing elements, electronics, a communications interface and wireless capabilities, enables companies to quickly extract data and see success in real-time that they can apply to larger-scale buildouts.
With TE Connectivity’s IoT Mini Start kit—a sensor toolkit—companies can quickly extract data and achieve success in real-time, which can then be applied to larger-scale buildouts.
What are the most significant achievements are taking place in 2019?
We saw many achievements in 2019 and envision many in the years to follow.
The shift in companies defining the value of IoT systems versus simply implementing IoT applications for the sake of testing technologies is significant. There also will be projects moving from PoC phases to production volumes, where impact will be realized.
In addition, advances in wireless connectivity will allow encapsulated sensors to be added to assets for continuous monitoring. Finally, end-to-end providers with specific application knowledge will evolve, providing a plug-and-play functionality that will increase market saturation and reduce costs.
What hurdles are still left to overcome?
The Internet of Things provides vast opportunity for companies operating today, the power of which has not been fully realized.
A lot of the barriers to implementation lies with the current structure of most organizations today—one that silos operations from IT with little collaboration between the two. For example, the operations department typically owns the systems that have the most to gain from IoT deployments (HVAC, lighting, factory equipment, etc.). These teams often focus on the benefits of efficiency, cost savings and greater productivity. Meanwhile, IT departments, which typically own the network and the security systems, are concerned that IoT invites security risks to the enterprise. Because these two departments have different objectives, there’s a tension that can slow down deployments, and which ultimately needs to be addressed.
Further, the cost to implement IoT systems versus the immediate ROI that’s delivered can delay a company’s full-scale investment, which is why PoC solutions like IoT Start can help. Finally, security concerns coupled with some newly forming regulations around data privacy can also add more challenges that need to be addressed.
Jen Gilburg joined TE in 2018 to lead Strategy for TE Sensor Solutions, focusing on sensor content growth in the key megatrends of Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous driving, and vehicle electrification. Prior to joining TE, Jen worked at Intel where she was the co-inventor of an industry-wide solution aimed at securely onboarding IoT endpoints including sensors and gateways. Her work in this capacity gave her broad exposure to the greater IoT ecosystem solving the real-world problems of asset tracking, predictive maintenance, automation, and making our traffic and cities function more intelligently.