IoT and wearable devices to drive market for many trillions of sensors in 15 years

October 09, 2014 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting, Christoph Hammerschmidt
As we discuss the IoT and wearable devices, we tend to gloss over the proliferation of sensors that such devices require. Smartphones have driven the sensor market over the last few years from 10 million units in 2007 (iPhone introduction) to almost 10 billion devices in 2013.

At a recent Trillion Sensor Summit that took place in Munich, the driving theme was inspired by “Abundance” defined as a world without hunger, a clean environment and energy and medical care to all, to be enabled in one generation through technological innovations by so called exponential technologies producing goods and services faster than global demand. All this requires networked sensors, capable of collecting data and exchanging information.

Beyond technology, the roll-out of ubiquitous sensor applications will destroy industries — and create new ones.

According to a Fraunhofer EMFT press release, networked sensors are one of the exponential technologies with forecasted demand up to 45 trillion sensors in 20 years. The biggest global economic tides, such as Digital Health and Internet of Everything (forecasted by Cisco to grow the global economy by $19 trillion by 2020, to represent over 20% of global GDP) are positioned to make Abundance a reality. The Abundance concept was introduced in the bestselling 2012 book by Peter Diamandis and Steve Kotler of the same title.

Is this realistic? We have predicted Utopia many times in human history only to find that things do not usually work as planned. Trillions of sensors are probably going to happen, but, they will help us manage, conserve and use scarce resources more efficiently.

More to the point, as we see the use of sensors explode in smartphones, this can be expected to continue in wearable devices, which will essentially be add-on sensor systems for the smartphone. It would be reasonable to see the smartphone become the universal controller of everything much like the PC became the centre of the computing world. These trends where smartphones are used to control and monitor are already seen in healthcare, medicine and home automation to mention a few.

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