Report from Sensors Expo: Part 2: Best of Sensors Expo Silver Winners

E-mail Barbara Goode

Best of Sensors ExpoWhen we editors determine the winners for our annual Best of Sensors Expo new-product awards, we assign them to three levels. Yesterday I told you about our Gold-level winners; today I'll tell you which products we picked for Silver-level awards. These are products we deemed only slightly less awe inspiring than our Gold winners. We liked them based on the descriptions in the nomination forms, and loved seeing them in action in the exhibit hall. Woo!

When senior editor Melanie Martella wrote her report on the new products of 2005 that received the greatest interest from readers she noted that weather sensors are always among the most popular. So here's a selection sure to delight you if you're in that category—and maybe even if you're not:

Airmar Technology Corp.'s Airmar WeatherStation calculates apparent wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, air temperature, relative humidity, dew point, and wind chill temperature. Yes, all that! And an optional internal compass and GPS allow calculation of true wind speed and direction as well. The company says it designed the unit to meet a growing need—among crop growers, construction companies, outdoor leisure centers, avionics and vehicle manufacturers, chemical and steel processing plants, and others—for real-time, site-specific weather information.

Blue Road Research's BRR Fiber Optic Readout System takes structural testing to a new level. It lets you determine damage and strain gradients for any structure in which a fiber optic sensor can be embedded (examples include composite propane and hydrogen tanks, repair bondlines, structural joints, and bridge panels). It makes multi-dimensional measurements, allowing assessment not only along the surface of a structure, but across its thickness, too. "I'm very favorably impressed by this system's ability to monitor both static and dynamic faults in structures," says executive editor Stephanie Henkel. "Heaven knows there's a howling need for such inspection/monitoring equipment."

National Instruments's NI CompactDAQ is an elegant, portable USB-based modular data acquisition system designed for ease of use. One-fourth the size of other data acquisition instruments, NI CompactDAQ combines the plug-and-play simplicity USB with the performance and flexibility of hot-swappable modular instrumentation. It can simultaneously stream high-speed analog input, analog output, digital input, and digital output over a single USB connection. Editorial advisory board member Strether Smith says one of the many things that impress him about this is that "it is a good USB interface so it is essentially host independent." Smith once built a PC-based system for the structural dynamics lab at Apple computer and says he is going to propose a new system that uses this hardware but with an Apple host. "One neat thing is that LabVIEW runs on both PCs and the new Macs so my old software will work with the new hardware and my friends at Apple won't have to hide the PC in a corner any more."

I'll board a plane shortly to return home from Sensors Expo, but will be back tomorrow to tell you about the remaining winners. Then, over the next many weeks, my colleagues and I will tell you about more things at Sensors Expo that impressed us. It will take a while; inspiration was abundant.