SensorsSensor technology is everywhere these days, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the industry who hasn’t heard at least something about sensors, how they collect information, and why they are at the center of manufacturing’s burgeoning big data era.

Recently, the topic of sensors came up while I was listening to a friend, David Knight of Terbine, speak at a AEM Thinking Forward event hosted by Autodesk. Knight was discussing the volume of sensors online today with our members and how the technology offers the ability to both mine and analyze data for new opportunities.

The conversation served as a reminder for me of the sensor I wear to monitor my blood sugar, and I found myself wondering if there was a profound connection found from other sensors – in the proximity or other similar attributes – that may realize a benefit to research.

The thought sparked a memory I had of another Thinking Forward event I attended in Chicago at the CNH Research Center. Among the presentations given at the event was one on “smart cities,” and I recalled some of the discussions I engaged in that day. A few in particular focused on how the representatives in attendance from member companies were trying to understand why AEM had selected such a topic and why it was important to think about smart cities.

I mentioned how smart cities really only work if many things are connected, and several people turned quizzically toward me and asked, “But how does that affect us?” So I posed a question: “Do any of you sell products to municipalities of what some day might be a smart city?” Three members participating in our small roundtable discussion raised hands. And while the specific products they cited will remain anonymous for now, let’s just say they were garbage trucks, sweepers and excavators.

I then suggested if the companies they worked for provided the dust sensors (less than 10 cents apiece) for every third light post in the municipality, so as to monitor particles in the air, would a city sweeper be more appropriately deployed or autonomously deployed? Would a city pay for monitoring if they could expect to save money and see a reduction in traffic congestion caused by sweepers, all while being able to quantify to their constituents that their smart city was smart enough to reduce dust particles in the air?

Another consideration is garbage trucks being deployed to only full container locations requiring emptying, versus all containers (similar to refueling equipment on a job site). What about trench clean out to only those with buildup or gradient issues?

All of this is to say sensors provide an opportunity for companies in our industry to not only know more, but also to deploy a new service business, reduce customer costs and enhance equipment efficiency. There’s no patent on the idea of installing sensors on every light pole, but there sure is a strong connection from:

  • The data coming off the sensors
  • The equipment that, through artificial intelligence, reads the sensors and provides a more efficient route for a sweeper.

Ultimately, the opportunity provided by sensors could result in savings related to fuel costs, peoples’ time, improved equipment utilization and municipal spend.

The challenge is simple: Sensors are everywhere, so where are yours? Or where could you implement the technology in order to enhance your customers’ business?

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