Trillions of sensors ahead – with interesting side effects
Sensor applications of all conceivable types will drive the expansion of the IoT. The application fields range from production machines to healthcare and from cars to smart homes. The Trillion Sensor Summit offered a snapshot of an exploding universe. Janusz Bryzek, originator and chairman of the Trillion Sensor Summit initiative and co-chair of the Munich meeting, gave an impression of the economic potential of the mobile sensor market today and in the future. Between 2007 and 2014, this market has grown from $2 billion to $13 billion annually. At the same time, the complexity of these sensors exploded from 1000 to 1 million transistors per sensor. And this expansion wont stop by no means in the overseeable future, Bryzek said. While the number of sensors in operation around the globe today is in the range of some ten billions, this number will make another breath-taking hike. Within the next 15 years, the world will see it rise to a number somewhere in the double-digit trillion range, Bryzek predicted.
Enablers for this giant market are breakthroughs in the fields of biotechnology, medicine, nanomaterials, networking, computational systems and robotics. A particular important role will play the availability of 3D printing systems at a large scale, Bryzek said. MEMS and MEMS-based systems will play a major role in sensor development, he added.
As challenges in the trillion sensor summit roadmap are regarded slow cycle times for commercialisation and standardisation. At the technology level, the algorithms enabling the derivation of useful information yet have to be developed in a way that suits large numbers of distributed sensors. And if many sensors throw their data to some kond of collection point, bandwidth issues are almost certain to arise. Last but not least, user adoption is vital to the propagation of the IoT.
And it is likely that this won’t be a self-propelling model: Sensors – and the machines equipped with them – will kill jobs. In the US alone50 percent of the currently existing workforce will be displaced by robots within the decade ahead, Bryzek predicted. And if this would not be enough, 40% of the current Fortune 500 companies will give way to new companies we did not hear about yet. But no reason to become desperate: The IoT will create a total of 172 million jobs, mostly for knowledge workers, by 2020, Bryzek quoted a Cisco forecast.