SENSORS EXPO: 30 YEARS AND COUNTING

 

Roger Grace
Roger Grace

Memories and Bonds

As a marketing consultant and vice president of marketing for a startup company, NovaSensor, I attended the very first Sensors Expo in 1985, which was held at the Rosemont Convention Center, Rosemont Illinois. At Sensors Expo 1985, I was successful in convincing the NovaSensor founders, Janusz Bryzek, Joe Mallon and Kurt Petersen to seriously consider exhibiting its line of Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) pressure sensors. A side note, at that time, these components were referred to as micro-machined sensors.

After much discussion and justification, they agreed. This was to be our first major promotional activity as a startup and considered to be our "coming out party". The results of our participation in Sensors Expo were beyond our wildest expectations.

As a result of our participation in Sensors Expo, we met many potential customers, but more importantly, we had the pleasure of beginning long-lived relationships with staffers from the conference founders and management (Expocon) and Sensors Magazine. Professional and profitable relationships were formed with show manager Susan Reuter, exhibits manager Joyce Giannini, and Expocon owner Fred Favata. Additionally, strong bonds were made with Sensors Magazine publisher Carl Helmers and co-owner of Sensors Expo Roberta Toth. Subsequent Sensors Expos added Sensors Magazine editors Dorothy Rosa, Barbara Goode, and Melanie Martella.

The Exhibition

Since that time, I have attended 27 Sensors Expos. Over the years, many things have changed and many have stayed the same at Sensors Expo. Most important of the things that have remained constant was the opportunity to make new and trusted relationships with Sensors Expo management and Sensors Magazine editors. Since 1985, I have brought all of my sensor clients to Sensors Expo and they have all benefitted greatly from their involvement of exhibiting and making presentations.

Some of the highlights of these participations include the awarding of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Janusz Bryzek of NovaSensor, the winning of the Best of Show Product to BF Goodrich for their force sensor, and numerous "Honorable Mention Best Products" for Coto, MEMSIC, Measurement Specialties, and NovaSensor for products introduced at the event. One might ask why I'd recommend sensor makers to exhibit at Sensors Expo as part of their marketing program. The answer is very simple, Sensors Expo was, and continues to be, the only US conference and exhibition devoted solely to sensors products and their applications from consumer to industrial and from medical to military/aerospace.

Certainly one could attend vertical-application conferences, but startups or small companies are more often than not on very limited budgets and can't afford to attend many such events to only be able to access a small sector of their total audience. Sensors Expo was and is the only game in town to address these startups and small companies' broad audience of customers at one place and at one time. Simply put and enough said, Sensors Expo is very cost effective.

The Technical Conference

Having made over 35 presentations and chaired/organized 25+ sessions, I consider the technical sessions at Sensors Expo to be unique in the industry. They provide attendees with timely, poignant, and pragmatic information on sensors, sensor-based systems, and their applications in a manner that no other technical conference has been able to consistently emulate. These conference venues provide attendees, existing customers, and prospective clients with an opportunity to ask critical questions and share knowledge and opinions on topics that inspire innovative solutions.

Some of the most notable and memorable presentations include NovaSensors' "MEMS in Consumer Applications", back in the early 1990's, years before mobile phones became the largest consumer of these devices. Also debuting, the annual "MEMS Commercialization Report Card" was presented at several Sensors Expos.

Finally, through the generosity and support of Sensors Magazine and Sensor Expo show management, I and my colleagues have conducted several workshops at Sensor Expo in the successful development of the IEEE 1451 Standard for Smart Sensor Interfacing.

Major Changes Over Time

In the early days of Sensors Expo, the focus was primarily on sensors. The show has grown far beyond that with its inclusion of companies and organizations that provide complimentary functionality to sensors.

An early success story is ASIC companies. For the past several years, several ASIC companies exhibit at Sensors Expo. Most recently, there has also been a proliferation of energy harvesting companies that have been exhibiting. Their components are key elements in sensor-based application solutions. Bottom line here is that Sensors Expo management has been closely tracking recent changes in the sensors industry and continues to bring these organizations that are fueling positive changes at Sensors Expo as exhibitors and speakers.

A Major Marketing Opportunity

In addition to being a major technical conference and exhibition, Sensors Expo provides a major marketing opportunity for exhibitors via complimentary and paid-for marketing programs to increase booth traffic. Sensors Expo retains a professional public relations firm that reaches out to the editorial community and invites them to attend the conference. Notable trade-publication editors attend and cover the products on display in major B2B publications, both in print and on line.

I always tell my clients, 'if you're looking to catch fish…do it in a bathtub rather than in the bay'. Lots of fish have been caught over the years at Sensors Expo by raising awareness of companies and their products in the sensors community, which results in increasing sales. It stands to reason that meeting editors at Sensors Expo is a much more cost-effective approach than meeting them during a press tour.

The Now And Beyond

The Sensors Expo technical conference program has done an excellent job featuring topics that are contemporary, relevant, and forward looking for the sensors community. Recent Sensors Expos showcased technologies and applications for sensors for the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables, which are currently very hot topics that will impact future sensor innovation.

I believe the IoT is the best thing that has happened to the sensors community in the 35 years. Unlike the mobile-phone market where only a small number of large of companies using a limited portfolio of applicable sensing technologies have been able to play in the game, IoT provides small, medium, as well as large companies the opportunity to do so. Also, IoT and wearables require a much broader spectrum of sensor types including gas, bio, and chemical sensing to be designed into systems. Hopefully, this will be at prices and associated gross margins that will help sensor makers to prosper versus the lower prices and associated profit margins attributable to mobile-phone applications.


Roger Grace will be presenting a paper titled "Printed and Flexible Sensors for IoT and Wearables" at the Sensors Expo 2015 pre-con, June 9, 2015 from 4:15 PM to 4:45 PM. Also be sure visit Roger Grace Associates at booth #754 during the show and discuss any of the topics mentioned and more.


About the Author
Roger H. Grace is president of Roger Grace Associates (Naples, FL) which he founded in 1982 as a marketing consultancy serving the sensor, MEMS, IC and capital equipment markets. He holds the B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. (as a Raytheon Company Fellow) degrees from Northeastern University where he was awarded the Engineering Alumni of the Year Award in 2004. He was a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley College of Engineering from 1990 to 2004. He can be contacted via email at [email protected].

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