Just in - the results of our annual Trend Watch Sensors Survey of design engineers, who specify a wide range of sensor technologies in their applications, from basic proximity and photoelectric sensors to more advanced vision systems and energy-harvesting sensor networks. In general, respondents see sensors as growing in importance, with 56 percent saying they expect to see the use of sensors in their designs increase in the next three years. Half of the survey respondents design products for the industrial market. The balance of respondents works in industries as diverse as automotive and aerospace to packaging and healthcare. A full two thirds noted that in particular vision sensors and systems and wireless sensors will become increasingly more important in their design work. Some 15 percent of respondents noted that more traditional proximity, linear displacement and photoelectric sensors also will play a more prominent role in their design work. Hands down, the hottest trend noted in the survey results is wireless sensor networks, with 60 percent of the respondents saying that they see this technology heating up in the next 12-18 months, thanks to greater reliability and easy-to-use, plug-and-play connections. There is also the potential with wireless for significant savings when it comes to installation costs. When selecting a sensor, respondents said that reliability, accuracy and durability/ruggedness are the top three charactertistics, while product support and availability are critical when selecting a particular supplier. On design engineers' sensor wish list is more comprehensive data sheets and technical documentation, especially with regard to new products, as well as the availability of cost-effective sensors that meet the rigors of their applications. "We're looking for the right functionality with good pricing," one respondent noted.
A few weeks ago, Ford Motor Co. quietly announced that it was rolling out a new wrinkle to the powerful safety feature called stability control, adding even more lifesaving potential to a technology that has already been very successful.
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
People who want to take advantage of solar energy in their homes no longer need to install a bolt-on solar-panel system atop their houses -- they can integrate solar-energy-harvesting shingles directing into an existing or new roof instead.
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