In 2007, no market researcher predicted that the then 10 million unit market for sensors would grow to 3.5 billion units by 2012. In fact, MEMS in mobile equipment had a compound annual growth rate of 222 percent in those five years.

Similarly, today no market researchers currently predict a market of a trillion sensors in the next decade. But that hasn’t stopped farsighted organizations andthose in the field from recognizing the potential for sensors. In April of this year Foundation on Economic Trends President Jeremy Rifkin predicted in the UK’s Director Magazine that by 2020, today’s 11 billion sensors will grow to 50 billion sensors connecting devices and people. By 2030, he says the market will have grown to 100 trillion. (http://www.director.co.uk/MAGAZINE/2014/04-April-2014/Opinion_67_07.html) Cisco systems and GE estimates that sensors will have a $15 trillion Internet of Things (IoT) market by 2020. The IoT describes the connection of an object to the internet, and IoT growth relates directly to sensor technology development.

Visionary Dr. Janusz Bryzek is the chairman of the Trillion Sensor Summit which is based on the idea that the sensor market will not grow to the trillions without a group effort towards commercialization. The Summit is backed by several Silicon Valley MEMS startups, and endorsed by MANCEF, MEPTEC and MEMS Journal. Bryzek and colleagues organized the summit in order to bring companies and governments together to work towards drawing a roadmap and gathering funding for the future of sensors. The summit continues to be held at various venues around the world with upcoming locations in La Jolla CA and Tokyo, Japan. Past events have been held in Munich Germany as well as Stanford and Berkley Universities.

Bryzek, who graduated from Warsaw Technical University with his MSc and PhD, is a veteran in MEMS startups. He worked to found SenSym, IC Sensors and NovaSensors in the 1980s and Jybe Inc in 2009. In November 2010 he became a part of Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild is currently developing its own brand of sensors, expected to reach market this year.

Bryzek says sensors hold huge untapped potential: “The by-product of a trillion sensors is an abundance that will change the world for better — we will live healthier and longer in a less polluted world,” he said in an address at the Trillion Summit in Munich. (https://web.archive.org/web/20151003060017/http://www.electronics-eetimes.com/en/janusz-bryzek-the-trillion-sensor-man-part-1.html?cmp_id=7&news_id=222918922)

So far, MEMS in mobile phone has been the biggest growth area for sensors and the main application behind growth from 2007 to 2012. But Bryzek and his colleagues know that sensor application is limited only by technological and software development. “While 70 percent of those trillions of sensors will be solving problems for us, at least 30 percent will be making life more fun,” predicts Bryzek.

The Summit’s developed roadmap references Abundance, a book by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler which Bryzek has said deeply influenced his work with Trillion Summits. Abundance predicts that emerging technology will draw a need for 45 trillion sensors employed in solving human need problems such as health care, climate change, food security and access to clean water. The Summit on the Global Agenda which met in 2011 also predicted sensors to be a central answer to global problems. The Global Agenda released a list of top ten emerging technologies with the biggest potential to solve the most compelling social, economic and environmental challenges. Most of these technologies involve sensor based smart systems in their operation. Click for complete lists and the full detailed roadmap.

Current real world product applications for sensors are being developed as quickly and with as much diversity as the human imagination. Products such as a breast cancer killing chip from Northwestern University, Smart Socks by Owlet Baby Care which monitor the infant’s quality of sleep, blood oxygenation levels and skin temperature, Nike’s Smart Shoe insert with 8 sensors, or a smart Tennis Racket from Babotat represent the way sensors are bound to be applied to almost every aspect of our future lives.

The Trillion Sensors March is progressing now, and can be followed at . Sensor technology is guaranteed to change our lives by solving global problems, keeping us safer, healthier and connecting us to everyone and everything on Earth. The potential is enormous, involving industry, human rights and basically every aspect of our society’s future. Dr. Bryzek and the Trillion Summit’s vision and roadmap is designed to draw us into a new future, where keeping our footing will be important during the major changes ahead.

SPB Global tech writer
Mia Rodriguez