How Sensors are Changing the World

Posted by Maia Rocklin

Sensors produce over 20 exabytes of data each year (that’s 20 billion gigabytes), but much of it is going unused. You have at least a dozen of these sensors on your smartphone. Edge computing will begin to tap into all this data to make smarter devices all around you. 

IterateOn’s Sensors & Edge Computing event discussed the advancements in sensors and what this evolution could mean for the future. Jon Nordmark, co-founder and CEO of, described the possibilities and implications of this technological progress.

In this post, we will recap the highlights of the presentation. 

What are Sensors?

Sensors are all around us. 30 years ago, it may have been hard to imagine holding a tiny device that can scan the environment, display vital information, collect data, and run analytics. Today, it is reality. Millions of people in the world carry around a smartphone with 2 dozen sensors. Consider an Apple Watch, which not only tells time, but can also track skin temperature, heart rate, motion, and much more. 

Sensors are in our cars. They are in cities. They are in stores. 

Imagine being able to walk into a shop, find something you like, pick it up, and leave. No more waiting in line at the cash register. This is the reality of Amazon Go, an automated store. With 3000 cameras and sensors inside, the store is able to track what you take off the shelves and charge you using a virtual cart. 

As technology continues to progress, sensors are becoming more prevalent in all kinds of situations. There may be some situations that you are already aware of, and there may be others that you do not even realize.

Advancements in Technology

This rapid change in physical real-world interactivity is due to the deployment of small sensors and computers throughout the physical space around us. No longer limited to just desktops and laptops, small computers are now found in smart doorbells, cameras, motion sensors on elevators, security door locks, etc. Taken together, this Internet of Things (IoT) provides dozens of Exabytes of data each year. Now, with AI-driven computer vision, speech recognition, and pattern matching, the world around us is getting very smart, very quickly. 

AI is able to learn more efficiently than it used to. Instead of sending data to a central location, we can place AI chips directly where sensors are being used to make decisions.

In October 2017, it took ten days to train an AI machine to identify or recognize images. By 2019, the same process could be done in 2 minutes and 43 seconds. We are seeing significant improvements in our ability to train AI. Along with that, we’re starting to see the chips for AI get as small as 1.8 mm x 1.4 mm—dozens could fit on a penny. In addition, an AI chip is cheaper than it used to be, the cheapest being around just $1.

What all of this means is that AI decision making no longer needs to happen at a centralized computer somewhere else; the computing can happen on the “edge” in each device where things are happening in the real world. As exabytes of data swirl around, the need for privacy policies and security increase dramatically.  These policies may invoke blockchain tracking, stricter privacy laws, and an economy around personal data security.

Internet of Things alongside 5G

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly. As the industry grows, so do the opportunities to take advantage of sensors. We are seeing a rapid expansion in the number of devices exchanging information via the internet, having the ability to remotely operate these devices, and spinning off new forms of interaction with these devices. Sensors make it possible to collect data in almost any situation and are now being used in various fields of work discussed in more detail below.

Over time, these technologies will intertwine and merge together along with the emergence of 5G that expands the amount of data being transferred, augmented/virtual reality to mix digital images with the actual landscape, and haptic/sound feedback to interact seamlessly.

Why Do Sensors Matter?

Beyond the background of sensors and edge computing, real-world cases point out why customers (and businesses) will care about these advancements. Here are some of the highlights.


The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us around the world. IoT can help reduce the spread of the virus and aid in security opportunities. An example of this is the Apple Park campus in Cupertino. Each accessible door is equipped with gestural sensors. If you wave your hands at the device, the doors will automatically open. This can help to reduce the spread of germs. 


An important aspect of recovery is ensuring that the consumer’s needs are being met. With new advancements in technology, sensors that monitor activities and improvements in people can help with this. At the University of Michigan, researchers created a wearable shoulder sensor to track the progress of physical therapy patients. 

Sensors measure body temperature to detect people's mood.

Health Opportunities:

Sensors are at a point where they can scan people for a fever just by using a visual scanner. It is no longer necessary to touch someone or put a device in front of someone’s forehead. This can reduce user error while warning people about possible health issues. Another example of this is the Owlet, which tracks a baby’s heart rate and oxygen by using a sensor in the baby’s stocking. 

Mobility and Senses:

In the past, cochlear implants have been external and visual. A new cochlear implant can go inside the ear. It consists of tiny sensors that can detect the ossicles’ vibrations and an actuator that helps to drive the stapes accordingly, aiding those with hearing loss.


The beauty industry is all about personalization. Now, sensors can take a look at your face and environment to formulate a specific lipstick or other forms of makeup just for you, based on where you live and the conditions of your skin and face.

Closing Remarks

As the use of Sensors and Edge Computing continues to increase, consumers are going to start to take more control of their identities and data. This will impact and alter other companies and industries moving forward. The following are some key takeaways for you to focus on and look out for. 

  • Monitor the convergence of technology advancements
  • Include AI and sensors in strategic planning sessions 
  • Determine what products or services can be sensitized and AI-enabled

We would love to see you at our next IterateOn event. Each event is an opportunity to open up dialogue and learn from experts on a variety of contemporary and future-forward topics. Sign up by emailing [email protected], tracking us on Twitter @IterateAI, or check out our full calendar of upcoming events at

Check out what you missed out on at one of our previous webinar events: Inclusify


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