For more than 75 years, TE connectivity and sensor solutions, proven in the harshest environments, have enabled advancements in transportation, industrial applications, medical technology, energy, data communications, and the home. In an interview with Greg Montrose, Digital Marketing Manager, Sensor Solutions, TE Connectivity shares his views on company sensors business, recent trends, applications and its focus.
Please tell us something about TE Connectivity Sensors business and products you are manufacturing.
As a global technology leader, TE Connectivity provides sensors and connectivity essential to today’s increasingly connected world. In fact, we are considered one of the largest sensor companies in the world. TE sensors are vital to the next-generation of data-driven technology. With expertise across a broad range of applications — automotive, industrial, medical, appliance, aerospace and defense, and industrial and commercial transportation — we have deep expertise working with manufacturers, and their design engineers. And TE offers a solution that can meet the growing demand, trends, and needs of this marketplace.
How sensors play a key role in automating applications?
Sensors enable the measurement of various properties and convert the measurement into a signal for processing. This enables a better understanding of a system to increase automation and efficiency. For example, with the drive towards Industry 4.0 trends, the use of robotic, automation and control systems on the factory floor have become commonplace to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability. As the need for industrial robotic automation advances, sensing technology will continue to be the foundation for data collection that will help transform manufacturing floors into connected, cost effective, and reliable facilities. TE Connectivity (TE) offers numerous force, temperature, pressure and position sensors that provide highly accurate measurements for precise movement control and accurate monitoring of system components for preventative maintenance.
Which are the key applications for TE Connectivity sensors products?
TE Connectivity’s sensor portfolio is diverse in the number of properties that can be measured (pressure, temperature, humidity, vibration, position, force, etc.) as well as the depth of various technologies within each property. This creates a wide and diverse range of applications for sensors. Applications include but are not limited medical equipment, industrial systems, automotive and commercial vehicles, and appliances.
Which is your intelligence in sensor business?
While TE offers a wide portfolio of standard configurations and product platforms, we specialize in offering our engineering expertise to apply technologies to our customers more specific needs.
How sensors enable IoT and what are your innovations in this space?
Like all industries, sensors enable IoT by providing the data for more informed decisions. TE Connectivity manufactures various sensors with digital output signals, multiple sensor outputs, and low current consumption to further support the IoT industry. Further, our portfolio has expanded to support wireless projects with Bluetooth and LoRa capabilities and our forthcoming IoT Mini Start wireless interface. This module provides a complete solution that includes sensing elements, electronics, a communications interface, and wireless capabilities which will allow customers to convert existing hard-wired sensors into a wireless sensing device with minimal set-up and configuration. More specifically, this connected device allows for experimentation in IIoT applications to enable testing and evaluation of connected systems.
How does your sensors product differ from different applications?
The differentiation of our sensors relates back to the process of working with our customers. Understanding the environmental conditions, interface requirements, and properties being measured can lead to either a unique combination of standard options or a custom design. For example, a specialty coating can be applied to a wearable altimeter sensor to increase it’s water-proof rating. A specialty metal can be chosen for an industrial application to withstand the corrosiveness of a liquid or gas in a process.
How do you see the market expansion for wearable sensors and your growth in this segment?
The expectation of connectivity anytime, anywhere drives the need for wearable products. Many key trends in healthcare, including wearable technology, have increased the need for sensors to not only monitor patient conditions but also link to centralized data systems to help medical personnel make more informed decisions. Electronic systems in medical equipment, devices and probes rely on sensor signals as a basis for control activities, accurate diagnosis and treatment. Those systems are evolving to include more sophisticated capabilities while maintaining or improving their reliability. They are becoming more intuitive to use and there continues to be a push towards more mobile and connected medical products for remote patient monitoring. Simultaneously, the healthcare industry is seeking to better manage costs while improving patient outcomes. From devices that serve to lower hospital readmission rates, to cost-effective solutions that serve remote patients, sensors are at the heart of changing healthcare dynamics.
According to you which are the largest growing applications for your sensor products?
With recent trends focusing primarily on creating connected solutions, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), or Industry 4.0, space is proving to have the largest growth potential. These factory applications present enormous productivity potential for manufacturing customers since the ROI can be quickly realized using various TE sensing technologies. As the IIoT smart factory experience evolves, it will run on data — provided by TE Connectivity sensors. Some of the world’s largest manufacturers have already begun to integrate these technologies within manufacturing sites around the world — increasing productivity and decreasing unscheduled downtime via predictive maintenance sensing technologies— saving time and money.
How do you envision the next five years of sensor business?
Many of the advances will be incremental. We will continue to see progress along the axes of miniaturization, performance and price for digital and wireless sensing. There will also be an increasing emphasis on smart sensing, using on-board sensor capabilities to analyze data and transmit ’vital data’ rather than simply ’big data’. Sensor proliferation and sensor fusion will continue to accelerate as security within the IoT improves and makes it safer to transmit important data. That will enhance remote operating capabilities. While that is happening, the application of sensors to consumer devices will drive down cost and improve performance. In turn that will lead to adoption in other industries and open up applications that were previously unrealistic from a cost standpoint. From a technology standpoint, nanosensing offers a promising path to a true disruption, as do sensing polymers and advances in spectroscopy based on optical sensors.