The use of sensor technology has subtly become commonplace in modern civilization. From motion-triggered floodlights that are placed around homes to the metal detectors at airports, scientists have been able to harness the complexities of sensors and apply them to daily needs. Not only are sensors becoming part of our everyday lives, but they are allowing us to reach heights in innovation that were not attainable before. The exposure of newfound opportunities that are made possible because of rapid technological advancements in this field is known as the sensor revolution.
The Obama administration has been making a strong push to bring the capabilities of smart sensor manufacturing into the limelight. Earlier this year, the administration announced a $70 million federal award to the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a nonprofit founded by the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition. The coalition consists of over 200 partners ranging from industry leaders such as Google and Microsoft, to government and education representatives from across the nation (1). Their goal is to show how smart sensors can both improve advanced manufacturing in the U.S. and the efficiency of technological devices as a whole.
One of the fastest-developing sensor technologies is known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). RFID equipment combines electromagnetic sensing with radio communications. The most common use of this technology is seen in toll collectors on highways. However, recent advancements have been able to make the detection of radio signals even more precise and place them in the shoelaces of competitive runners, for example. Like transponders placed in a car, RFID tags in a shoelace release a signal whenever it detects that it is near a reader (usually placed at the finish line). The reader processes the signal and is able to record the exact time that the runner crossed the finish line (2). Far more accurate than using the human eye and a stopwatch, RFID tags can be used to settle disputes and create a more uniform way to clock times in international track events.
In a different fashion, robotic sensor packages are being placed in forests to monitor the homes of endangered species. Known as fixed data-taking stations, these systems are strung from trees around a certain area and automatically lower themselves in an attempt to take temperature, humidity, and light measurements at different heights (3). This helps environmental scientists to measure the fluctuations in weak ecosystems so we can readily provide help to animals that may suffer from them. These devices are powered by solar-cell batteries and send the data to centralized locations in order to be processed.
In the realm of health, scientists at Case Western Reserve University, led by electrical engineer Darrin Young, are furthering research to use sensors as a means to predict heart attacks before they ensue. Young’s team is working on a pill-sized sensor that can be implanted in the skin to measure heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. At first, the sensor will be used only to keep constant tabs on the vital signs of patients with heart conditions. In the near future, Young hopes to use the device to help at-risk patients to identify the onset of a heart attack before it physically occurs (2).
(1) "FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces Winner of New Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute and New Manufacturing Hub Competitions." The White House. The White House, 20 June 2016. Web.
(2) "The Sensor Revolution: Environment & Civil | NSF - National Science Foundation." The Sensor Revolution: Environment & Civil | NSF - National Science Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.
(3) Platt, John R. "Remote Sensing Emerges as an Important Tool for Habitat and Species Conservation." Earthzine. N.p., 26 June 2012.
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Carlos was born in Chicago, Illinois and came to USC to study psychology with a minor in Business Administration. He has worked in healthcare and finance for the past two summers. Carlos also helped co-found Trojan Marketing Group, a group that develops marketing strategies for large companies. Carlos has been with Global Intelligence Trust since summer of 2016. He am most interested in writing about innovation in the technology sector and aerospace developments. Apart from academics, Carlos enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, and traveling.