C&B Notes

Small Sensors Have a Big Impact

Enabled by improving technology at falling prices and widespread wireless/cellular networks across the world, the combination of the increasing pervasiveness of sensors and smartphones in all of our pockets is changing our everyday existence.  The ability of these sensors to gather and report data literally moment-to-moment will create efficiencies — and potentially intrusions — that felt like science fiction not too long ago.  We must hypothesize which industries’ profit margins will be damaged by the changes.

Today, digital sensors can: monitor your tire pressure and avoid dangerous blowouts; analyze the gait of elderly citizens and warn of falls before they occur; follow the gaze of shoppers and identify which products they examine — but don’t buy — in a store; monitor which pages readers of a magazine read or skip; float in the air over a factory and independently monitor the plant’s emissions; detect impacts in the helmet of an athlete and make it impossible for them to hide potential serious blows to their brains; reveal when a dishwasher, refrigerator, computer, bridge, or dam is about to fail; trigger a different promotion as a new customer walks by a message board; analyze the duration and quality of your sleep; warn drivers that they are about to fall asleep; prevent intoxicated drivers from operating a motor vehicle; warn a person before he or she has a heart attack; detect wasted energy in both homes and commercial buildings; warn a parent or boss when anger is creeping into their voice, to help prevent them from saying or doing things they will later regret; tell waiting customers how far away the pizza delivery guy is from their house; analyze the movements of employees through a factory to detect wasted time and efforts; trigger product demonstrations or interactive manuals when a customer picks up or examines a product; congratulate an athlete when she swings a tennis racquet properly or achieves an efficient stride while running. What can they do tomorrow?