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Sensational sensors

Sensors collect information from the physical world and drive all telematics systems

Big Data is the Future

As we stand on the verge of a future dominated by intelligent automation and universally networked devices, in which self-driving vehicles exchange information with smart city infrastructure and a myriad other systems and facilities interconnected by the Internet of Things, we should turn our attention to what makes this possible.

The first thing that comes to mind is the exponential increase in the power of microprocessors and their reduction in volume. Minute computer microchips power the artificial intelligence systems and algorithms that telematics and digital tools and services employ for pattern recognition and to make sense out of reality. And in this domain, reality refers to bits, to long strings of ones and zeros, that represent information. Indeed, the telematics revolution has been fuelled by the rise of big data. And where does big data – or any data for that matter – come from?

Data is collected by sensors, the unsung foot soldiers of the telematics revolution. In the broadest definition, a sensor is an object whose purpose is to detect events or changes in its environment and report to a decision-making system.

The Telematics Revolution

Sensors are nothing new, however; in fact, they have developed along with – and catalysed – the industrial, electronic and digital revolutions. The Microphone, one of the first modern manmade sensors, was patented by Thomas Edison in 1877. The first thermostat was introduced onto the market in 1883. Infrared sensors came into use in the late 1940s, motion detectors have been in use for decades and, by the turn of the century, GPS navigation systems and sensors allowed the introduction of cheap and ubiquitous geo-location services.

Sensors are everywhere nowadays. They are in our homes, in our devices and in our cars. The radio waves emitted by mobile devices are used to detect human activity and identify trafficked areas that are best avoided. Audio sensorsenable voice recognition and commands. Sensors are employed to monitor safety and security conditions in our vehicles and provide us with preventive maintenance alerts. Life-saving airbags inflate thanks to pressure sensors, while proximity sensors make it possible for cars to brake far more quickly than human reactions allow. Indeed, the very notion of a self-driving car is based on sensors. The telematics revolution would never have arisen without sensors.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence

Sensors are growing increasingly more powerful, miniaturised and ubiquitous. They allow the acquisition of previously unimaginable amounts of data, that is analysed and processed by increasingly smart, independent and “experienced” artificial intelligence systems. And it is already affecting our daily lives: from the weather reports on our mobile devices to smart navigation systems in our cars, from agricultural sensors to city congestion monitoring, from public safety to pet tags.

There is no such thing as sensory overload in the digital era.

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