Please tell us a bit about the company and why you are at Sensors Expo.
We are TE Connectivity, a large connector company. That was our primary focus for many years. Four years ago, we acquired a sensors company, and so now this is the sensors business unit.
We're at this show primarily to get exposure, to talk to customers who come in to see us, to introduce new products, and to talk to you guys!
We have a number of things here with us. This show has been focused on a theme of IoT - the Internet of Things. This includes the IoT, the industrial IoT, and the medical IoT. We’ve got products now that we're starting to develop and introduce that address the needs of all those various applications.
In a standard factory internet of things, they have a sensor that's on a machine. The sensor is hard-wired to a radio that transmits the data to a gateway, which then aggregates all that data from all the machines in the company and sends it all to the cloud. We only do the sensors, but we're doing something to help make it easier to install to the systems in a factory. The sensor and the radio are hard-wired together. Sometimes there's compatibility issues, sometimes it takes up more space or more power, so we're combining the sensor with the radio.
We have a pressure sensor right here - this is an industrial pressure sensor, but it actually has a Bluetooth radio in it, so it transmits the data to a gateway or to some place where they aggregate all the data and send it off to the cloud. It's battery powered, so there are no wires that have to come to this sensor. Just install it in the machine, attach it with your link in Bluetooth, and it works. It's that simple. You don't have to run wires, you don't have to hire an electrician, you don't have to spend a zillion dollars to install it. If you have a big factory with lots of machines, that can be a really proposition.
We have this other pressure sensor - it's got an accelerometer, it's the same weight, it's a vibration sensor. It is used on machines and it monitors if things start to vibrate - then you know you have to do some maintenance on it.
We also have this sensor that's kind of interesting. It has a temperature sensor, a humidity sensor, and a barometric pressure sensor. It is BORA-enabled, so it's kind of like WiFi - it's very long range. You can go pretty far, much farther than Bluetooth.
What is this used for? One example I like to use is if you have a large hospital and you want to monitor the conditions in each hospital room separately. Hospitals try to keep the rooms comfortable, in a range of humidity levels and temperatures because you don't want make patients more uncomfortable than they already are. Now, if you were going to hard-wire a temperature sensor and a humidity sensor in every room in a big hospital, it'd be really expensive. With this one, to install it all you need is double sided sticky tape - it's that easy. Then you link to it with the radio.
It's much easier to implement this in big buildings and that's the big advantage with going wireless. We are kind of leading the pack - there's nobody else that's putting the radio and the sensor together into one package right now.
What other application areas do you think these products cover?
Generally, these products are focused on the smart factories and other applications like hospitals or hotel rooms; places where you have a large number of things that you're trying to monitor, and you don't want to spend a lot of money to install. So that's the main thing we're focusing on.
What makes your products unique?
Most factories are dirty, dusty, full of debris and not nice environments. So, one of the things we do is we design these products so that they can withstand very harsh environments. You can pour water on them, you can spill oil on it, you can bump into it with your forklift and it doesn't break - it keeps working. They are very robust, and we take pride in that. Standard sensors you put in a microwave oven won't survive in a factory.
Our products are high performing, with high accuracy, high resolution, and harsh environment survivability. They also have long durability and a long life.
How do you see sensors changing in the future and how will TE Connectivity’s products deal with that?
As more and more implementations of sensors into smart factory applications happen, people are going to start to see the advantages. They’re going to invest in the system but it's going to help them reduce downtime, improve throughput and improve efficiency on the factory floor. There’s a huge amount of competition out there to go make that stuff happen and there's a lot of incentive.
What we're seeing in the future is customers asking us for a longer battery life and a smaller size. They also want more than one sensor in a package – a multi-sensor module. We also have already started to do this. This particular product goes into a diesel engine and there's a humidity sensor, a pressure sensor, and a temperature sensor all in one package. So now when they build, they don't have to install three parts. When they buy, they don't have to work with three vendors, and when they connect, they only have to connect with four wires and they get it all.
So that's one of the trends that's driving too and generally this is driven by customer needs.