It bears repeating that some years, we editors have a devil of a time judging the Best of Sensors Expo awards because there are so many excellent entries. This being one of those years, we decided that adding a category of Honorable Mentions was the only sensible thing to do. So I'll round out our report of the awards program by telling you about two new products that just might impact your work.
It's Not About Saving Wiring Costs
Adding wireless communications capability to a product is not new, and in the future this feature will be expected for many sensors. Tekscan's ELF (economical load and force) measurement system deftly demonstrates the effect. At the basis of the Wireless ELF System is Tekscan's impressive FlexiForce sensor—useful in all sorts of applications, including grip force measurement, garment pressures, and safety assessment. "Their product has always been pretty slick, but attaching leads limited its applications," says executive editor Stephanie Henkel. That's for sure. "This should overcome that problem." Indeed.
There's a lot of talk about wireless communications saving thousands of dollars in wiring and installation costs. But this isn't about saving on wiring, it's about opening up new applications that were previously too ridiculous to consider. The Wireless ELF System is empowered with the ability to measure remotely using a USB-compatible receiver.
Taking Tiny to a New Level
It's true that Honeywell has products with greater capabilities, but "wow" factor in the company's HMC1043 3-Axis Magnetic Sensor is its seriously small size: 3 by 3 by 1.4 mm (don't sneeze!). This three-axis surface mount sensor array, designed for low-field magnetic sensing, promises to be a handy option for those who make consumer electronics such as wireless phones, GPS receivers, and watches. But its size, combined with its low price, causes contributing editor Ed Ramsden to speculate that it's bound to open up new applications.
I'm glad the Best of Sensors Expo awards judging is over for the year. We don't limit our judging to distinctiveness of the product; instead we take a stab at estimating what (if anything) the product's availability means for the application of sensor technology. But frankly, comparing products based on our top criterion—the promise of broad impact and the ability to change the way people work—gets pretty subjective.
That's partly due to the broad application of sensor technologies. One of the most fun things about attending Sensors Expo is hearing from exhibitors who display a product designed for a particular application and run into engineers who see how it can solve problems or enable capabilities in entirely different realms.
We've made our best guesses, but we'll continue to report on other products and developments we found that just might have a huge impact on you.