New advances are helping shape the future of sensor technology  

 

  • Sensor technology will continue to advance, which will encourage more industries to harness its potential in the future
  • A recent study shows that contractors are fond of sensors and would like to implement this tech into their business
  • Walmart opened a new store equipped with sensors to automate inventory management and make shopping more pleasant
  • Data gathered by sensors could help improve therapy adjustment for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease

 

With recent advances, we now have better access to numerous technologies that impact our lives in different ways. And with the advent of the IoT, sensors have become one of the most frequently used technologies. Thanks to their small size, sensors can fit anywhere, which is why more people are opting for sensor-embedded devices. Due to its convenience, this technology has found application in almost every industry. According to Allied Market Research, the global sensors market was worth $139 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $287 billion by 2025. 

Sectors such as construction, retail, and healthcare are already benefiting from this technology, and with further advances in the future, sensors are set to become an invaluable part of the digital world. 

 

Contractors are fond of sensors, study reveals

Often regarded as one of the least digitised sectors today, the construction industry is wholeheartedly embracing sensors. A study conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics, IRMI, and Triax Technologies shows that as much as 75 per cent of contractors believe that IoT technology, including sensors and wearables, can help mitigate risks such as construction defects and property damage. The study gathered responses from 135 contractors, including 80 general contractors and construction managers and 55 trade contractors. Although the majority of construction professionals would like to implement sensors into their business operations, they’re facing difficulties due to a lack of resources. In fact, the same study reveals that 90 per cent of contractors don’t have a dedicated budget for innovative technologies. 

Every contractor wants to have more control over their construction site, and smart sensors make this possible. The tech collects valuable data in real time and makes the site a lot safer for human workers. When construction companies realise the potential of sensors, their attitudes towards innovation will change, and they’ll be more than happy to embrace this technology. 

 

Sensors simplify shelf-stocking at Walmart’s new store 

Sensors are also creating benefits for today’s retailers. In April 2019, the US retailer Walmart unveiled a new store that will serve as a test ground for emerging technologies such as sensors and artificial intelligence (AI). The store, called Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL), is available to customers in the Walmart Neighborhood Market in New York. IRL is equipped with cameras and shelve sensors designed to track when shelves need to be restocked. The same tech will also detect if fruit is going bad and needs to be replaced with fresh produce. It will even spot spills and notify workers to add more shopping carts to the store when needed. Whenever the tech detects some of these issues, it will send an alert to workers’ smartphone. “We really like to think of this store as an artificial intelligence factory, a place where we are building these products, experiences, where we are testing and learning,” says Mike Hanrahan, the CEO of Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab. 

IRL’s technology is similar to Amazon Go stores. But unlike Amazon Go, Walmart’s store is still equipped with traditional checkout stations. What’s more, Walmart’s new store of the future is larger and has a staff of more than 100 people. 

 

A sensor-based assessment system could improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease 

Sensor technology could play an important role in healthcare as well. For instance, according to a study published in the journal Medical Engineering & Physics, wearable sensors could help doctors better assess medication states in Parkinson’s patients, who are treated with levodopa. Levodopa is commonly used to treat motor impairment in patients suffering from this disease. But when used long-term, levodopa can lead to “troubling motor impairments that are attributed to frequent fluctuations in the ‘on’ and ‘off’ periods”. To overcome this issue, doctors need to adjust the patient’s treatment. But to provide the patient with the correct medication dosage and frequency, the doctor should know when the patient is experiencing the previously mentioned fluctuations. Such data is usually acquired from patients’ self-reports, which means the information can be biased. 

This is where using a sensor-based assessment system is a better alternative. Motion sensors worn on patients’ wrists and ankles would detect their movement throughout the day. This solution would provide doctors with accurate information and help improve therapy adjustment for the patient. 

 

What lies ahead for sensor technology?

Sensor technology is a growing market, and as it becomes more affordable and sophisticated, it could play a pivotal role in the growth of many industries. Though this technology has already changed how some industries operate, the future is even more exciting, and sensors could soon change the game in every sector.