One of my microeconomics professors once pointed out that no one person knows how to build, from the ground up, anything that we use in our daily lives. Take a simple pencil for example. Most “modern pencils” have either cylindrical or octagonal cross sections comprised of a wooden structure, a graphite core, and a painted outer layer to protect from splinters. Each pencil has a finely printed label noting its size and brand, as well as a hollow aluminum cylinder compressed onto the top of the wooden structure to hold an eraser, typically made of some sort of rubber. A pencil is not only comprised of a variety of materials gathered from a range of different areas, it's also assembled and packed with an astounding degree of precision. The process of assembling a pencil from raw resources could be discussed for hours, and if you consider that nearly none of the assembly process could be completed without advanced machinery, the conversation about how each piece of machinery is assembled and how the software that runs the machinery is developed could go on for years.
If a pencil is so surprisingly complex, the scope of the work required to develop a complete system such as a smart phone, computer, or automobile is simply impossible to fully comprehend. It's obvious then that the way to further push our technological boundaries as a society is to continue to build off each other's work.
The Sensors Expo & Conference that took place in San Jose, CA, June 27-29, 2017, provided great insight into companies that develop many of the sensors and electronic components behind complete systems. From tech distributer giants such as Mouser to small university-run studies, the presenters at the Sensors Expo represented many of the steps from concept testing to components production and distribution. The conference shined a light on many lesser known manufacturers, who typically don't receive much publicity for their contribution to the end systems with which the user actually interfaces.
Most academic presenters chose to emphasize that their work isn't intended to commercialize or market any product, and that their research simply aims to demonstrate proof of concept. Taking a step further, Roger H. Grace, the moderator of a session about flexible and textile based sensors exclaimed, “It's not just about technology, technology, technology; it's about who takes this tech [conductive textiles] and makes it a marketable technology.” Many presentations at the 2017 Sensors Expo were about just that—taking research-demonstrated proofs of concept and developing sensors and devices around them.
KnightCap Honored with a “Best of Sensors Expo” Award
I can attest firsthand to the importance of utilizing existing research, components, and even software. Although the Health for America at MedStar Health fellows developed the KnightCap system, it’s clear that the endeavor would be nearly impossible to complete without using some level of existing hardware and software.
That’s why we’re especially proud to share that last night, KnightCap was recognized by the Sensors Magazine editor at the event with a “Best of Sensors Expo” Award, receiving the “Honorable Mention” designation in the Application Award category. We were among the four of the 11 finalist teams taking home an award in this category, which featured both experimental and commercial sensor applications. More broadly, the overall goal of this competition is to highlight advances in both innovations and real-world applications of sensors that are “distinctive” and have the “potential to change the way people work or serve a real industry need.”
To us, the award is really a testament to the importance of the work being done by everyone who is making KnightCap possible—including those who developed its enabling technologies.