Traditionally, sensors have been used for camera imaging and sensing, quantifying, and communicating information about humidity, temperature, motion, speed, proximity, and other aspects of their environment. Today, they have become key enablers for a host of new technologies that are essential to business and industry, and to everyday life, from turning on a light switch and driving a car to managing our health.
Several factors are fueling this growth, including sensor miniaturization; increased sensor functionality; higher levels of integration into electronic circuitry; and the greater levels of automation being incorporated into products and systems, such as with Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications.
As a result, the global sensor market is large and growing fast. By one estimate, it is projected to reach $346 billion in sales by 2028, up from $167 billion in 2019, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% over that period. The mobility (e.g., automotive, aerospace, rail, etc.), industrial, military, consumer, healthcare, and energy industries are among the biggest users of sensors.
Sensor Standardization to Enable Safe, Reliable IoT and IIoT Applications
As the sensor industry races to take advantage of market opportunities, the need to ensure that sensors will operate safely and reliably is of growing concern.
In the energy industry, for example, drill rigs for oil and gas exploration are now equipped with many sensors to ensure optimum and safe drilling performance at the lowest cost. These sensors must operate under harsh environmental conditions, and sensor failure may result in a rig having to be taken out of service, imposing potentially significant downtime and other costs.
In industrial applications, worker safety will be compromised if gas sensors fail to detect the presence of toxic gases. In semi-autonomous vehicles, if the light detection and ranging (lidar) remote-sensing system fails the vehicle will be unable to function properly, as lidar is fundamental to the functioning of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
These are just a few examples, but because there are now thousands of sensor products on the market, issues such as inferior product quality; product misrepresentation; incorrect application; lack of adherence to standards that could improve performance and/or accelerate development of new applications; and the lack of independent conformity and certification protocols, have assumed greater importance.
Moreover, it is challenging to effectively deploy sensors in complex IoT and IIoT applications, given the interoperability issues that may arise when attempting to integrate systems from multiple vendors. Hardware compatibility, wired/wireless connectivity, security, software development, and cloud computing are key interoperability considerations, as well as major issues in their own right.
IEEE Standards for the Internet Of Things Sensors
For many years, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) has provided technical experts from sensor manufacturers, users, and academia an open platform to come together and collaborate in the development of important sensor-related standards. The contributors to this body of work bring not only an essential knowledge of diverse sensor technologies to the task, but also broad and deep expertise in key applications like automotive and IoT, thereby ensuring that the resulting standards are relevant, effective, authoritative, and trustworthy.
Also, the growth and pervasiveness of sensor use in IoT applications which touch our personal lives means that non-functional requirements known as TIPPSS (Trust, Identity, Privacy, Protection, Safety and Security) are of growing importance. IEEE standards and projects strive to promote consideration of human values such as open access, fairness, and protection of personal data, among others in sensor standards development along with functional requirements.
Here are a few examples of relevant IEEE standards and projects:
- IEEE 2700™-2017 – IEEE Standard for Sensor Performance Parameter Definitions. This standard provides a common framework for sensor performance specification terminology, units, conditions, and limits for eight common sensor types.
- IEEE P1451.99™ – IEEE Standard for Harmonization of Internet of Things (IoT) Devices and Systems. This standard is being developed because current implementations of IoT devices and systems do not provide a means 1) to share data and 2) for an owner of devices to authorize who might have the right to access the devices’ data and/or to control the devices. The standard will define a metadata bridge to facilitate IoT protocol transport for sensors, actuators, and devices. It will address issues of security, scalability, and interoperability for cost savings and reduced complexity; and will offer a data-sharing approach that leverages current instrumentation and devices used in industry.
- IEEE P2020™ – Standard for Automotive System Image Quality. Most automotive camera systems have been developed independently, with no standardized reference point for calibration or measurement of image quality. This standard will address the fundamental attributes that contribute to image quality for automotive ADAS applications; identify existing metrics and other useful information relating to these attributes; define a standardized suite of objective/subjective test methods; and specify tools and test methods to facilitate standards-based communication and comparison among system integrators and component vendors.
- IEEE P2520™ – Standard for Testing Machine Olfaction Devices and Systems. Dozens of machine olfaction, or “e-nose,” devices have become available over the last two decades, and have been widely marketed globally. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have failed because the promised returns on investment have not been achieved. The purpose of this standard is to establish a collection of performance measurement methods/conformity assessment processes for e-nose devices in focused application areas, so that new generations of e-noses can be introduced that simulate human chemosensory responses with greater accuracy and precision.
- IEEE P2846™ – Assumptions for Models in Safety-Related Automated Vehicle Behavior. This standard will describe the minimum set of reasonable assumptions used in foreseeable scenarios to be considered for road vehicles in the development of safety-related models that are part of automotive ADAS systems. It includes consideration of rules of the road and their regional and/or temporal dependencies.
IEEE Global Sensors Registry and Certification Committee
Beyond standards development, IEEE SA has embarked on several initiatives to accelerate progress in sensor standardization and conformity assessment, including the recently launched IEEE Global Sensors Registry.
The IEEE Global Sensors Registry is a web-based service that gives manufacturers the opportunity to reach potential customers globally by publishing authoritative and trustworthy information on their sensor products. Manufacturers declare the certifications their products may have, the standards they adhere to, and can publish product data sheets, so buyers can find the right sensors for their implementation based on the functionality and performance parameters defined in the datasheets. All product information submitted for inclusion in the Registry will undergo an audit process by IEEE to ensure accuracy.
IEEE SA is offering a no-cost early access period until the end of 2021 to encourage manufacturers to participate in the registry. Free to register, the experience gained by participant companies will provide an advantage in marketing their products. Also, products added during the early access period will stay listed at no cost when the period has ended. Click to learn more about the IEEE Global Sensors Registry.
Free On-Demand Webinars on the Future of Sensors
In conjunction, IEEE SA is now also offering a series of free educational webinars on key sensor topics. The goal is to provide attendees with a greater understanding of sensor needs, requirements, and opportunities for specific markets.
The first webinar explored the importance of sensors and their real-life applications in life-saving wearable medical devices. Click here to watch the on-demand webinar recording.
The next webinar in September will discuss the path to achieving sensor interoperability. Click here to sign up and receive notifications when registration opens.
Webinars to follow will feature industry leaders and address topics such as successes and pitfalls to avoid in security and industry specific implementations. Stay updated on related news and activities at IEEE SA.
- Sri Chandrasekaran, IEEE SA Foundational Technologies Practice Lead
- Ravi Subramaniam, Director of IEEE SA Conformity Assessment Program