By Mae Kowalke
In most industries, metrics of some sort are used to gauge the success of a particular endeavor. Often, sensors that measure things like humidity, pressure and temperature play a role in metrics. Enterprises and organizations in a myriad of fields, including healthcare, green building, supply chain and oil & gas use sensors to enhance their operations.
The trick with sensors, though, is getting measurements to the appropriate destination quickly and accurately. This is where a new concept, the smart sensor, is playing an increasingly critical role by increasing operational efficiency, cutting costs, protecting the environment, and even saving lives.
According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a smart sensor is “a single device that combines the full process of data collection to the final stage of information output.” Another definition for smart sensor, from Wikipedia, is “integration of an analog or digital sensor or actuator, a processing unit, and a communication interface.”
Smart sensor applications rely on networks to work efficiently. Communications Service Providers (CSPs) can help enterprises fully leverage technologies like LTE to enable smart sensors. High leverage networks, application enablement and data center switching solutions for enterprises all have a role to play in supporting smart sensors.
The opportunity for sensor-related business, as a subset of the broader machine-to-machine (M2M) applications market, has created what Xavier Martin, Vice President of Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent’s Communications Solutions division, calls the “sensoreconomy.”
“Every day, enterprises connect more and more smart sensors to networks to provide applications with information,” Martin noted in a recent Enriching Communications article, Smart Sensors Enable Enterprise Opportunities.
Until recently, smart sensors were used for dedicated applications but were not usually part of the business technology ecosystem. That’s no longer the case.
“Enterprises can get more value from smart sensors and sensor applications by incorporating network intelligence and creating tighter links with business processes,” Martin explained. “CSPs are in a unique position to provide enterprises with the capabilities they need at multiple levels of the smart sensor value chain including connectivity, services, applications, and business processes.”
The role of CSPs in the sensoreconomy, Martin said, falls into three main areas, each building on the one before it:
- Delivering connectivity
- Adding services and applications
- Enabling real-time business services
In the sensoreconomy, CSPs and enterprises have a symbiotic relationship.
“As the sensoreconomy continues to unfold, CSPs can rely on enterprises’ deep industry knowledge to help extend their business into the rapidly growing smart sensor market,” Martin explained. “And enterprises can rely on CSPs’ expertise in networks and communications services to help them incorporate smart sensors into their core business strategies.”
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.