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No 21 | November 2017 |



Printed sensors and the

industrial IoT: Sensing where

no sensor has gone before

Dominic Miranda, printed electronics business development manager at

Brewer Science, Inc., outlines the bright future of printed sensors in the

industrial environment


he internet of things (IoT) is defined

as a network of intelligent com-

puters, devices and sensors that

collect, process and share vast amounts

of data. The industrial IoT (IIoT) puts

the IoT to work in industrial settings

for such purposes as quality control,

sustainable and green practices, supply

chain traceability and overall supply chain



According to a 2017 report

by MarketsandMarkets research, the

IIoT is expected to grow at a compound

annual growth rate of 7.89%, from

US$113.71bn in 2015 to $195.47bn by



For the purposes of this article,

the IIoT applies to a range of markets

including the manufacturing, agricultural,

grocery and health care industries.


A brief history of sensors

Sensor technologies are not new. In

fact, temperature sensors based on copper

resistors date back to 1860. Since the

mid-1990s, quartz-crystal piezoelectric

sensors and silicon-based transducers have

brought sensing beyond military applica-

tions to find uses in everyday life.



then, developments in materials technology

have permitted better control of mat­

erial properties and behaviour, thereby

offering possibilities for new sensors with

advanced features, such as greater fidel-

ity, lower cost and increased reliability.


Sensors’ role in the

industrial IoT

While sensors are only one component

of a more complex system, they provide

the gateway to IIoT systems. Sensors

provide the means of gathering the data

required to provide the end-user with the

information they want and need to see.

Figure 1: As manufacturing lines become more

automated, sensors will provide insight into

multiple, currently unmonitored processes