Michael A. Robinson writes: SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Most investors haven't heard of the man you're about to meet. But they'll certainly wish they had...
He's an executive with the storied Fairchild Semiconductor Int. Inc. (NYSE: FCS) - one of the original Silicon Valley chip makers that played an integral role in the computer revolution.
But don't expect to hear him extolling the virtues of semiconductors.
He's working on something bigger now.
In fact, now that I've seen his research firsthand, demand for this rapidly growing technology could be twice as big as I predicted a month ago here in Money Morning.
So take notes...
When the history of the high-impact sensor revolution is written, you can bet there will be plenty of ink devoted to Janusz Bryzek.
There will be plenty of grateful investors, too...
Developing a $1 Trillion Industry
To be sure, the more than $300 billion semiconductor market is nothing to sneeze at. It's critical to our high-tech society, and Fairchild has remained a key player in this sector for decades.
But Janusz Bryzek - a high-tech pioneer for nearly 30 years - sees sensors as a far more pervasive technology. And he sees how quickly (and quietly) it's becoming a $1 trillion market.
I recently had the chance to meet with Bryzek at a conference on advanced sensors held here in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Indeed, our chat occurred shortly after I wrote to you here in Money Morning, predicting that the world will see the use of up to 4 trillion sensors. [See "Some People Will Get Stinking Rich on These Devices."]
Turns out, Bryzek's research and analysis makes me believe that I underestimated potential unit sales by nearly half.
Bryzek cites a study by German giant Bosch that says we're looking at a potential 20-fold increase in unit sales to 7 trillion sensors - or roughly 1,000 each for every person on Earth today.
So we're talking about a market that one day could be worth trillions. And this skyrocketing growth means big bucks for savvy investors who get in now while there is still so much upside...
Sensors Are Already All Around Us
See, sensors are on the verge of becoming completely ubiquitous. And the reason is really very simple. These solid-stated devices literally "sense" aspects of the world around us - temperature, humidity, pressure, sound, impact, tilt, angle, speed, and much more.
Bryzek even cites a new breakthrough in which sensors can be "printed" on the skin. Rather than made of ink, these "tattoos" are flexible electronics that will be used for medical monitoring.
They are the perfect components for our data-driven world. They work great for things like smartphones, medical devices, wearable technology, and deployment of airbags in auto crashes.
As a result, though most of us don't know it, sensors are all around us...
In fact, while writing this report I took the dog for a walk to clear my head. I got halfway around the block when I ran into a utility worker who had just hooked up a handheld device to a small water-monitoring station. She told me her device had four sensors designed to measure overall water quality.
Bryzek points out that sensors have been around for decades but have only recently entered the mainstream. If anyone would understand why that's true and the impact sensors will have on our lives and portfolios, it's Bryzek.
See, he's a leading authority on advanced sensors known as MEMS, which stands for microelectromechanical systems. MEMS are devices like accelerometers that measure gravity, tilt angle, incline, rotation, and vibration in things like smartphones and tablet computers.
Considered a pioneer in the field, he has roughly 30 years of experience, including stints as a CEO and chief technology officer at other firms. Bryzek has authored a number of papers and is frequently cited as a leading expert in the field. He chairs the group Tsensors (Trillion Sensors) Summit that will be held next month at Stanford University.
At Fairchild, Bryzek serves as vice president in charge of development for the MEMS and Sensors group. Fairchild is a storied firm that was one of the original Silicon Valley chip makers that played an integral role in the computer revolution.
Ironically, MEMS were around at the dawn of the semiconductor industry in the 1950s but were much slower to take off. They were difficult to make and integrate into other components.
But, driven by consumer needs, they recently entered the mainstream in a big way. Bryzek told me that two recent milestones really helped push mass adoption of this technology.
Games & Smartphones
In 2006, the Nintendo Wii broke new ground with motion sensors embedded inside the game's innovative wireless remote. Then in 2007, Steve Jobs gave this field a huge stamp of approval by including MEMS in the iPhone.
Since that time, the use of sensors has exploded.
For instance, mobile sensors alone grew at a rate of 200% a year from 2007 to 2012, the last full year for which statistics are available.
Some of the big growth drivers Bryzek sees for the immediate future are:
- Mobile health, in which medical sensors communicate with smartphones and can extend quality healthcare to billions around the world.
- The Internet of Everything, in which devices as disparate as forklifts and diapers communicate through a giant Web for objects running in the background.
- Smart systems, like utility meters, the power grid, and autos. They combine computing, communication, and sensing.
- The Central Nervous System for the Earth that will alone require 1 trillion sensors for things like energy exploration, climate monitoring, supply chain management, and earthquake warnings.
As I spoke with Bryzek, I couldn't help but think of all the great investments that lie ahead. Literally, MEMS and other sensors will touch every aspect of the global economy - from shipping to manufacturing to healthcare to utilities.
And that's just for starters...
These devices will find ever greater use by the world's militaries, mining and energy firms, agriculture, and biotech. You'll find them in robots, robotic cars, smart homes, artificial limbs and synthetic skin, light-filtering windows, security systems, and more.
[Editor's Note: The biggest role sensors will play also happens to be the most important one, as you'll see in Michael's presentation: "One Device to End All Disease... and It Costs Less Than $50."]
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