Sensors Mag

Trends Evident in "Best of Sensors Expo" Nominees

May 31, 2006 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors

E-mail Barbara Goode

The past few weeks we Sensors editors have been poring over nominations for our annual new-product awards program and comparing relative merits of entrants. Called the Best of Sensors Expo Awards, the program seeks to recognize new releases that we think will have the greatest impact on the use of sensor technology. The winners won't be announced until next week (we'll report them right here in the Today at Sensors weblog), but I can give you a preview by revealing some themes we've seen in the nominations.

First Theme: High Quality
While the judging process is always grueling (we spread the joy by calling in expert advisors), this year it's perhaps especially so because, as senior editor Melanie Martella notes, "the quality of the entries is very impressive." Melanie can say that with authority because, not only does she personally review every product announcement that enters our virtual offices, she also has a keen appreciation for the technologies and their applications, and has offered key insight since the Best of Sensors Expo Awards program's inception in 1999.

More impressive nominees overall makes for more difficult decision making—but better options for buyers of sensors and related products.

Superior Functionality
Many of this year's entrants claim super impressive capabilities, like the Blue Road Research's BRR-3500, which makes multidimensional measurements. Melexis's MLX90316 Triaxis Hall sensor, the subject of our March feature article, also exemplifies this trend, as do Solidica's Chorus Sensors and National Instruments' CompactDAQ modular DA system. And then there's Airmar's WeatherStation, which measures seven parameters in a package of less than 3 in. diameter by 3.5 in. high. Holy cow.

Smaller, Easier
The trend toward tinyness is exemplified by FISO Technologies' FOP-MH high-temperature fiber-optic pressure sensor and even more so by Honeywell's HMC1043 3-Axis Magnetic Sensor, which measures 3mm by 3mm by 1.4mm. And thank goodness ease of use is a trend, too. To give examples, I'll again cite National Instruments' CompactDAQ modular DA system, and Crossbow Technologies' MoteWorks, which aims to take the pain out of implementing wireless sensor networks.

Wireless and Its Cousins
Speaking of wireless, it comes as no surprise that this capability has taken further hold. But let me quantify. This year, exactly 50% of the full range of entrants incorporate wireless data transmission—and several of the products are actually built around wireless technologies; that is, the products would not exist without wireless. In 1999 none of the entrants fit that latter criterion—and just 25% of the winners and finalists (that is, the most innovative of the lot) incorporated wireless data transmission. And while standards didn't exist for wireless sensors back then, today 25% of the overall field (and 50% of the wireless entries) boast ZigBee compatibility. One of the wireless entrants, Dust Networks' SmartMesh, claims 99.9% reliability. A couple of this year's entrants also claim energy harvesting schemes. This is a theme that first appeared among Best of Sensors Expo nominees last year-and one I'll be happy to see grow.

Next Week: Who Won and Why
We'll be passing out awards next Tuesday evening in Chicago, so beginning next Wednesday, we'll not only tell you who won, but also describe what it was about the winners we found most compelling. That is, why you should care. So please tune in again then—and if you'll be attending Sensors Expo please stop by the Sensors booth and say hello. We editors are always eager for feedback!

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