Sensors Expo is returning to the McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA with its new name — Sensors Converge.

Sensors Expo is returning to the McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA from June 27 – 29, with its new name — Sensors Converge. There are nine conference tracks that highlight the different applications for sensors, but if you take a closer look, they share a common theme. It’s all about intelligent connectivity — convergence. It’s about gathering data, converting the data into useable information, and sharing that information to control processes and enable people to make informed decisions. And sensors are where all that data comes from.

The keynote addresses hit two areas of growing significance for the sensors market — sustainability and robotics.

Sustainability — The Opening Keynote

The opening address, “Technology and Sustainability: Working Together for a Better Future,” will be given by Adrian Grenier, who is a leading advocate for integrating sustainability into everyday life. He currently serves as an Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador for the UN.

This is a vital theme — Sensors are critical tools for engaging with the climate crisis that is already inflicting us with fire, droughts, and floods. For example, there will be a Wednesday 9 AM session, to describe new environmental sensors that provide access to real time, localized data to help make more efficient use of scarce firefighting resources.

As vital as firefighting, is the fight to reduce carbon emissions. The Wednesday 10:10 AM session How Smarter buildings are Critical to the Decarbonization of the Built Environment is a recognition of the outsized role of buildings in emitting carbon.

In fact, there is an entire conference track on smart homes/ buildings/cities. Bringing “smartness” to homes, buildings, and cities is a way to curb emissions and create energy savings by using connected sensor systems — aka the IoT.

And, in fact, there is a conference track on 5G and Connectivity, which includes a session on “IoT in a 5G World.”

Robotics — The Second Keynote

The second keynote will be given by Dr. Kate Darling, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, where she investigates social robotics and conducts experimental studies on human-robot interaction.

As the use of robots and cobots is rapidly expanding, it’s important to consider, not just technical, but also social and emotional issues as well. For example, the proliferation of robots with embedded artificial intelligence (AI) forces us, as a society to confront what that means for us. One of her topics addressing that is the question of whether “intelligent” robots will supplement human ability or replace it.

Energy Harvesting for Ultra-Low Power IoT Deployment

One of the critical needs for an expanding IoT is to minimize the power consumption of wireless sensors. An all-day pre-conference symposium on Monday will cover self-powered energy sources — energy harvesting — as a means of extending battery life. Intelligent power management, advancements in semiconductors/MEMS, low-power wireless communications, and energy storage will be among the important topics.

Wearables: Flexible, Stretchable, Printed Sensors

Among the fastest-growing categories are flexible and stretchable sensors that can be worn on the body or woven into fabric. They are used to track activity, measure vital signs, and even administer medication. They have become practical in large measure because of new manufacturing techniques such as roll-to-roll printing. That will be the subject of another all-day pre-conference symposium on Monday.

Internet of Things (IoT)

A good definition of the IoT is that it’s all about the communication of useful information between devices and people, in every possible combination. In that sense, it’s really the theme of all the tracks.

Take, for example, “5G and Connectivity.” Connectivity can be thought of as the nervous system of the IoT — the advent of 5G technology will have a great impact on that nervous system. It’s important to think now about the ramifications of 5G for the design of systems and the nodes on those systems because it’s moving in and will be extremely impactful.

The IoT is also moving fast into agriculture, from autonomous tractors to the surveillance of fields for crop data. And there is also a connection between agriculture and robotics, highlighted in the Tuesday afternoon session on “Autonomous Robots for Precision Agriculture.”

Smart sensors in “smart buildings” and “smart cities” — one of the conference tracks — can make important contributions to environmental sensing and sustainability — another of the tracks.

The Medical Technology Design track has synergy with the printable, flexible, stretchable, and functional fabrics discussed in a pre-conference symposium.

The Industrial and Manufacturing track will cover edge computing, an important industrial trend that promises to expand the reach of the “smart factory” by embedding more intelligence into sensors. But that will put a lot of pressure on the need for minimizing the power consumption of these sensors.

The bottom line is that applications for sensors are becoming ubiquitous and the Sensors Converge Expo is the place to go for learning and exchanging ideas about it all.

— Ed Brown Editor Sensor Technology.