Sensors Expo 2015 Orators Explore The “Now” And “The Future” ~ Part Two

Sensors Insights by Mat Dirjish

In part one of this Q&A session our Sensors Expo 2015 pre-conference and keynote speakers tackled a couple of sensor-pertinent topics. Just to review, our participants include Roger Grace, president of Roger Grace Associates and analyst of the MEMS market appearing in the pre-conference arena, Dr. Mike North, President and Producer & Host, North Design Labs & Discovery Channel, and Gadi Amit, Founder and Principal Designer, NewDealDesign.

Our distinguished experts, when asked what areas of technology they see engineering students and new grads expressing a sincere passion for, their responses were not in line with the concept of going to school for four years and getting a gig with a large established company offering regular work, high pay, and job security. They saw more of an entrepreneurial spirit, with new engineers looking to start something from the ground up using resources like Kickstarter for funding. One believes the newbies are more interested in app creation, an area that supposedly does not require an engineering background.

Disagreement bloomed when asked if they thought companies were designing products and then telling the consumer "you need this, now", as opposed to researching what consumers want and/or really need. One agreed by claiming it's "unusual for management of sensor companies to want to do research because they are too arrogant to face the fact that they do not know what the market needs, but would rather have fun in designing something." Inversely, another stated that "most of what engineers are working on is so new that asking someone if they want it just doesn't work." Summarily, another clarified the situation by pointing out that "the rate at which it's possible to create a product and test a market has accelerated to the point where you can just try something and see if it works. The goal is to test something as fast as possible before expending too much development time and capital."

Now let's see where they stand on the next few topics.

3. Recently, IEEE published the results of a survey that led to the observation/conclusion that mind control will most likely be the next big thing [see It's All Up In Your Head! IEEE Internet of Things Survey Reports Mind Control Will Be the Technology of Choice in 10 Years]. They refer to instruments, devices, headgear, and games that involve using one's mind to control things such as moving a game piece around a board, and other such activities. Do you see this as a field ripe for both innovation and profit? If so, what can we expect from designers?

Roger Grace goes, "Wow…this is almost Stephen Hawking-like. Speaking as an engineer, I believe that this is a fascinating topic, but speaking as a marketing/business person I believe that it will take a great deal of time to get the sensors and algorithms working together to make this viable. Venture capitalists and investors may not want to wait that long and the other issue is what is the size of the market?"

Mike North weighs in, questioning, "I wonder whether people want mind control, or mindless control. For instance, I don't want to walk up to a door and have to think, 'open door'. I just want to walk up to it and have it open. Similarly with self-driving cars, I don't want to have to think about driving, I want to focus on something else and have the car automate the action. We built a mind control demolition derby car seven years ago. To start the car, I had to think about starting the car. It was a real pain. It would have been much easier to just push a button."

He amplifies further, "Strictly speaking about the market of mind control, I love the technology and think some of the smartest people out there are working on it. But when I look at the market, I don't even think it's started climbing the hype curve. What the industry really needs is an ecosystem. Someone needs to step up and do what MakerBot did for consumer 3D printing: just try not to fumble on the goal line like they did! Alternatively we'll see an Apple, Google, or a Samsung step into the ring and create the market. Designers need a marketplace to thrive, but don't ask them to make it."

IEEE is a noted authority in almost all fields electrical. I find it a bit contradictory that mind control would be of interest when there is a glut of existing technology that succeeds quite well in taking one's mind off everything. Television is now in second or third place with the smartphone leading the pack. From what can be seen day-to-day on the streets, most people prefer to use their smartphones instead of their brains. Unfortunately, sometimes the smartphone is only as smart as the docile brain that owns it.

4. The last, and possibly the most important question is what do you wish to impart to Sensors Expo 2015 attendees and what do you personally want to come away with?

Gadi on the upbeat, says, "I'm excited for the talk and the discussions. It's an exciting time we're living in, with changes coming every day and advances happening we could only dream of years ago. Sensors are helping us understand and interact with our lives, homes, and work in new and helpful ways. The problems we face with sensors are not just about where to put something, or what it can measure, but really inherent to each product. It's decoding what is the right information to share, and what should be hidden." Importantly, "Bringing wisdom to devices so they are collaborators to our lives, instead of gate keepers we need to learn special codes to interact with. And in making these new products, tech isn't enough."

Roger recounts, "I believe the sensor community is at a point of incredible opportunity to support a gigantic range of applications." He wishes to impart. "Going back to my friend and colleague Dr. Janusz Bryzek and his "Abundance" concept…we engineers are the mechanism of empowering our world to have a higher quality of life with better medical care, with better nutrition, and with lower reliance on fossil fuel and a lower carbon footprint. As engineers, we are in a unique position to do so because of our engineering training and creativity and need to accept this challenge and make contributions to our society that enable this outcome.

I believe Dr. North has the best attitude and answer, "To put smile on their faces and a new idea in their heads. I'll take the same!"

One other very important point to remember is, if you want to see and hear these experts live, along with a plethora of other presenters, then you must first register and then attend Sensors Expo 2015. Here are the schedules times for the pre-con and keynote presentations at Sensors Expo.

The following are the speakers' scheduled times at Sensors Expo 2015. Locations are yet to be announced, so keep an eye out on the Sensors Expo webpages and at the show.

Roger GracePre-Con - June 9, 2015 - 4:15 PM to 4:45 PM "Smart Printed/Flexible/Organic Electronics (PFOE) and Sensors for IoT and Wearables: Applications and Technologies" by Roger Grace, president of Roger Grace Associates


Dr. Mike NorthKeynote - June 10, 2015 - 09:00 AM to 10:00 AM "Your Sixth Sense of Innovation" by Dr. Mike North, President and Producer & Host, North Design Labs & Discovery Channel


Gadi AmitKeynote - June 10, 2015 - 09:00 AM to 10:00 AM Keynote - June 11, 2015 - 09:00 AM to 10:00 AM "Why the Sensor Explosion Needs Technology Design" by Gadi Amit, Founder and Principal Designer, NewDealDesign