There are a lot of possible applications for shape memory actuators, but due to cost, so far they are mostly found in high-end areas such as space transportation. There is a company in Colorado which focuses on this, and has some parts on the International Space Station (http://www.ctd-materials.com/products/emc.htm).
Also, the Europeans have had a difficult time enforcing their electronics waste regulations. Apparently, some companies have decided that the penalties for illegally exporting waste to Third World countries are cheaper than the cost of complying with the regulations, particularly since they rarely get caught and when they do get caught the penalties are not always enforced. The BBC did a story on this last year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10846395).
Until the cost of shape memory actuators goes down, and/or the cost of failing to comply with regulations goes up, I don't see this technology catching on.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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