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A Trillion Sensors Are on the Way
7/15/2013

Researchers have demoed working circuits applied like tattoos.
Researchers have demoed working circuits applied like tattoos.

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Sanjib.A
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Printed sensors on skin
Sanjib.A   7/15/2013 11:46:49 PM
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It is great to know that printed sensor on skin like tatoos is already a feasible technology!! Days are not far when the imagination of fully functional artificial robotic limbs could be integrated with the bodies of the needed. But surely it will help medical science (or rather medi-tronics science :) ) a lot!

How does the sensor printed on skin communicate with the monitoring device...or how the monitoring device gather data from these sensors? 

Susan Rambo
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
Susan Rambo   7/16/2013 5:10:32 PM
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Reminds me of that Washington Mutual commercial (remember Washington Mutual?): The bankers are scanning customers' heads, after first stapling a barcode to their foreheads.  Great commercial, maybe a little too true...



 

Sanjib.A
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
Sanjib.A   7/16/2013 10:55:02 PM
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@Susan: That is a fantastic commercial. Thanks for sharing! :) Hope this doesn't happen. :)

Yesterday I was sharing the same topic (about printable sensors on human skin) with a few of my colleagues. One person who is working on making functional safety compliant products and always concerned about "failures" and "FMEA"s promptly asked: what if such a sensor which would gather important health related data & transmit to doctor's monitoring device somewhere is remote place malfunctions? Would it not cause unnecessary stress for both? shall we then have redundant sensors then? :)...unfortunately we had to stop our conversation there :)

JanineLove
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
JanineLove   7/17/2013 9:41:52 AM
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This concept of senors on the skin reminds me of when RFID first came out. I was at an IMS show many many years ago, and someone was demonstrating how an RFID tag was used to track a cow. I turned to him and asked, and how long do you think it will be before people want to insert these in people? babies? He looked absolutely horrified....

chrisnfolsom
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
chrisnfolsom   7/20/2013 6:43:52 PM
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First off - I love the tech, and the possibilities - it seems we are finally catching up to all the future hype from the end of the last century with smart phones, the internet, big data and now allowing sensing, monitoring and conrolling at such a personal level.

The only issue I have with these sensors is the network involved and the security of it.  As few end users pay for our own "big data" solutions and essentially farm out the processing and results - such as google searching and the advertising schemes as "services" - as those services become even more personal it will allow much more invasive advertising, tracking and perhaps manipulation.  We all would like to think we are beyond manipulation, but if commercials and advertising didn't work to nudge people in one directon or channel that nudge into a specific direction it would not be a billion dollar business.

On one hand it would be great to get warnings about a health problem, but to all of a sudden start getting advertisments for doctors and medicines based on my skin patches results would be going too far. I am not necessarily for government regulation, but I believe some kind of management above just pure company profits and stock holder benefit is warranted as this situation is way beyond my or most peoples ability to understand or react to.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
Tom Murphy   7/20/2013 7:08:18 PM
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You're right Chris. I share you concern about the network because, let's face it, if there were trillions of sensors all connected to networks, they'd simply all be connected in one network.  We'd all be linked to each other. Sorry. Sometimes, I just want to be off the grid.

Do you think linking everyone all the time through more than 100 sensors each might be a bit of overkill?  Or do you think it would advance the aims of the human race?

chrisnfolsom
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
chrisnfolsom   7/20/2013 8:02:39 PM
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I think "being off the grid" will be important as when we rely on the grid we really give up a part of being human.  Perhaps we should creat something along the lines of a ritual fasting, but have it relate to being off the grid....  It's very hard to judge something untile you don't have it.

It's interesting how "being on the grid" was something important for work just a few years ago, but now we can see that computers are used by more people more of the time for purely social interaction - as in my living room with everyone's face glowing blue as we "watch" a movie...

The number of sensors is not as important as the communications, and face it, if we are "really" advanced we will have perhaps thousands or millions of sensors/devices  monitoring and maintaining us... we have 100 trillion cells or so, not counting the bacteria.  Now that I will be 50 next year I am feeling my mortality more then ever and hope that sensors and such will help me prevent and perhpas predict some medical issus - I believe we will not recognize the lives of our progeny in 100 years for good or for bad as they will be plugged into the net in ways we cannot imagine.

My previous point is that for all that data do be useful we will have to have it analyzed and I don't think that our local HMO will come up with that software or service, but it will be routed to services that will aggregate, coalate and process that data - very personal data.  How much of this data will be availiable to different companies and for what will be an interesting to see although with our current model of using information as an adervtising or marketing product it will be interesting to see how this plays out as most of us would "sell our souls" for a better quality, and longer life.

As to the "aims of the human race", perhaps for another post....

 

 

Tom Murphy
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Re: Printed sensors on skin
Tom Murphy   7/20/2013 8:32:03 PM
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Those are all the right questions, Chris.  And you're probably right, too, about how different lives will be led a century from now -- I'm not sure people of, say, 1850, would have much of a clue about what we're about.   No doubt all our technology has improved our lives, but it also has denigrated certain parts -- it's wonderful, for example, to consider such complex issues with strangers over the Internet, but is it a replacement for F2F conversation? I certainly don't think so.

I once went hiking by myself in a remote section of the Grand Canyon of myself, maybe 30 years ago. I expected a great experience, but the thing that really stayed with me wasn't the rainbow-colored rocks at sunset or the challenge of the climb, but the utter strangeness of being completely alone and off technology for the first time in my life for three full days -- no phones, computers, and not another single human voice. Just me and the universe, which suddenly seemed very, very large.  I realized then that I had never had that experience for more than a few hours, or perhaps a day.  After three days, it really gets to you ... in a good way. You reconnect with nature on a level that most of us have forgotten or never really experienced. I recommend it.

So, if the future involves being "always on" and constantly monitored by sensors all around us, I think I would not like that very much. We all need a way to "drop out" in order to remember who we are in the first place. 

I'd be interested to know:  When was the last time any of you were completely out of touch and away from electronics, and for how long?   Would you want to be always monitored throught a global sensor network?

 

 

 

 

LarryM99
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Organized sensors
LarryM99   7/16/2013 12:50:48 PM
A trillion sensors are one scenario, but a trillion organized sensors or much more intersting. The vast majority of these sensors are going to be servicing devices which are either not connected or do not publish the data from their sensors in an available way. Social media is starting to change this, making it popular to post information that is more rich in sensor readings, and companies like Google are making great strides in harvesting that information. You also have to wonder how far along the NSA and other government agencies are in doing that as well.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Organized sensors
junko.yoshida   7/16/2013 5:13:05 PM
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LarryM99, I think you are spot on. The issue is how the industry can turn a trillion sensors into the organized, networked sensors -- to get data, information and intelligence that are useful.

It is the technology that lets people not just read the data collected by a trillion sensors, but makes sense of all. 

We are sitting only at the very beginning of what might become a revolution.

rich.pell
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Re: Organized sensors
rich.pell   7/17/2013 12:13:36 PM
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This is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine the possibilities when these "trillion sensors" are combined with things like "big data," mobile, visualization and gamification etc.  For example, one of many intriguing possibilities is that of "self quantification."

mcgrathdylan
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Welcome back David
mcgrathdylan   7/16/2013 2:05:08 PM
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Great to see David Blaza gracing the pages of EE Times once again.


The semiconductor equipment industry should be excited about the Internet of Things. Everyone in the industry should. Kaivan Karimi, Freescale's IoT guru, told me recently that when the IoT cranks up in a few years, there will be over 100 billion microcontrollers shipped each year, up from about 10-15 billion this year. That's a serious increase in chips. They'll need a lot of new equipment to build those.

Max The Magnificent
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David!!! Hurray!!!
Max The Magnificent   7/16/2013 4:14:11 PM
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Hi David -- it's GREAT to "see" you here!!! Now I'm wearing my happy face :-)

I know it's impossible to say -- but I would love to know how many regular (non-IoT) sensors have been deployed since say 1900 -- how many non-IoT sensors are in the world today -- how many IoT sensors are in the world today, and in what year do we expect to have 1 Trillion active IoT sensors?

dcblaza
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Re: David!!! Hurray!!!
dcblaza   7/16/2013 4:39:40 PM
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Max,  great questions and I'm sure there is data our there on sensors sold,  I can get MEMS sensors sold going back to their infancy but you wanted all the way back to 1900.  There are a few experts out there who can weigh in here,  I will ping them to respond.

Good to be back!

Max The Magnificent
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Re: David!!! Hurray!!!
Max The Magnificent   7/16/2013 4:41:30 PM
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@David: I will ping them to respond.

Be gentle ... but firm :-)

I await in dread anticipation :-)

Tom Murphy
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Why not a gazillion?
Tom Murphy   7/16/2013 5:50:36 PM
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A trillion?  Really?  Let's get to a billion first, then 10 billion, then ask me again.  I've heard way too many optimistic forecasts of the future that never came true.  One trillion would be about 145 sensors for every person on the planet, all connected.  It's connecting them that's tricky.  On the plus side, we probably wouldn't need mobile phones anymore. 

 

docdivakar
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Re: Why not a gazillion?
docdivakar   7/17/2013 10:52:04 AM
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@Tom, we have already crossed several billions of sensors in mobiles. In India alone, there are close to 800 million handsets. Of course not all of them are smart phones with sensors but the worldwide market is touching a billion. The high end phones have as many as 15 sensors in them. The low end smart phones which are already proliferating in the developing economies tend to have less but will easily cross the billions of sensors number nonetheless.

What I do take issue with is the unrealistic number like 50 trillion that I have heard mentioned before in one of the sensors conferences. Granted there will be sensors every where as proclaimed by the Internet of Things proponents, I find it very hard to believe reaching 50 trillion. If that number is reachable, we have to ask ourselves one simple question: what is each sensor going to be priced at? The entire world economy produced a GDP of ~$75 trillion in 2012! That leads me to believe that these trillions of sensors better be priced at $0.01 each!

Thoughts?

MP Divakar

Tom Murphy
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Re: Why not a gazillion?
Tom Murphy   7/17/2013 11:05:54 AM
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DocDivakar:  I'm glad I'm not the only one here with a healthy dose of skepticism.  Whether it's 50 trillion or 1 trillion, I think folks need to remember that a trillion is a very large number. While I certainly think it's possible to make use of 250 sensors per person or more, the cost-effectiveness often proves to be the difference between what we could do and what we actually accomplish.  Personally, I'd rather see an end to world hunger and universal education before we start ramping up to trillions of sensors.

Frank Eory
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Re: Why not a gazillion?
Frank Eory   7/17/2013 2:08:53 PM
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Since we are now approaching a billion sensors in the world and IoT is in its infancy, it doesn't seem far-fetched to imagine reaching 1000 billion sensors in another decade. Yes, they will need to be priced in the range of a few pennies to achieve that level of deployment.

dcblaza
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Re: Why not a gazillion?
dcblaza   7/17/2013 2:23:20 PM
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Frank and Tom (Murphy) and Max,  lots of questions about the number of sensors sold and out in the world but I can give you this hard data point I picked up at SemiCon last week,  Bosch has now sold over 3 billion MEMS sensors,  thats one company basically in one application (automotive) so just think about how many more companies and applications are out there???  The big issue of course is connectivity and then who owns the data.  I will be blogging on both these barriers to IoT over the next few weeks.  Its coming though and the trillion sensors (over 10 years mind you) will happen.  Hope I get to do a "told you so" on eetimes.com at some point

Tom Murphy
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Re: Why not a gazillion?
Tom Murphy   7/20/2013 7:13:08 PM
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DCB: If there are trillion or so sensors, I'm sure you'll be able to tell us "I told you so."  In fact, I'm pretty sure there will be no effettive way to stay off the grid. But I still think that day may never come. Remember when everyone just knew that RFID tags would be on every product you buy and every item in a store within the next few years?  That was around 2000.  Did it happen? Not so much.

rick merritt
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Tomorrow's tatttoo parlor
rick merritt   7/17/2013 9:45:57 AM
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Great blog, David.

Thanks for pointing us to this trillion-sensor event. It's another way of looking toward the future of ubiquitous computing people have been seeing ahead for some time now.

I recall the keynote at IEDM last year showing academic work on tattoo-ed ICs. Strange but true. Imagine the world far beyond tablets this takes us to.

See http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1280227

 

chanj0
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Pros and cons of printed sensors on your skin
chanj0   7/17/2013 5:51:34 PM
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There are great inventions going on. I am sure printed sensors on your skin will certainly monitor your health status 24/7 if it doesn't keep you healthy. That's one of the many pros. What's the cons? What if someone wants to track where you are 24/7. There are a whole 9 yards needed to be walked before printed sensors will be widely adopted.

MEPTEC
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Trillion Sensors Summit
MEPTEC   7/17/2013 7:00:30 PM
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It sounds like there is a lot of interest in this topic -- if you'd like to get updates on the Summit please go to www.tsensorssummit and "Join Our Email List".

tomrunsalot
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Perfect Storm of Hype?
tomrunsalot   7/23/2013 6:16:16 PM
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Is not the IoT the most forced connecting of unrelated dots ever to hit the Gartner hype curve?  Is it delusional or visionary to see relationships between the growth of inertial MEMS sensors for mobile phones, pervasive remote health monitoring, Smart Homes (ugh, not again), global earth monitoring, and the so many other things under this stratospheric IoT umbrella? Not only are the underlying technologies supporting the pillars of IoT extremely disparate (MEMs, printed/flex electronics, cybernetics, low power wireless, energy harvesting, etc.), the array of unproven, diverse, if not imagery, business models remain unexplained.  IoT has been presented as a solution to world poverty and climate change, the future of human intelligence, and the path towards world peace.  Maybe we should just call it The Force.  I'm not sure whether the emergence of a grand unifying theory called IoT that attempts to span this array of technical, social and business issues reveals or deceives, but I do know it's attracting a lot of attention and probably venture capital as well. 

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