Do you sense what your smartphone sensors are saying?

By Deepan Kumar Pathy and Preeta Banerjee 

Are you aware of the number of times you use the sensors embedded in your smartphone without even knowing it? Be it to tilt your smartphone to view an image in the landscape position, or to automatically deactivate the touchscreen while on a call, the sensors in your smartphone are always in action. These examples are barely the tip of the iceberg. Sensors have been a part of smartphone design since their inception. The current generation of smartphones are embedded with as many as 16 sensors, and each sensor is always active, receiving and sending signals, for use by apps or directly by users.

Growth of sensors in smartphones

Smartphones capture and use data from various sensors like gyroscopes, accelerometers, proximity sensors, ambient light sensors, fingerprint sensors… the list just goes on. These sensors bring intelligence and awareness to our smartphones as they continuously capture data about our immediate environment. While sensors enhance the user experience by anticipating our needs (at least most of our needs), a lot more could be expected from these smart sensors.

Have you ever thought how interesting it would be if all these sensors interacted amongst themselves? By fusing data from various embedded sensors, smartphones could become even more sensitive to user needs. For example, using location data and calendar information, sensors can provide contextual awareness to your smartphone to automatically go into silent mode when you are in the office or in a movie theatre.

We are living in an era where our smartphones have become our personal assistants; so there is a stronger need for these smartphones to be more contextually aware to provide an even better user experience. Acknowledging the need and demand for contextual sensing smartphones, many in the industry are placing their bet on sensor hubs. Analytics firm IHS predicts that shipment of sensor hubs will witness 100 percent growth, reaching two billion units in 2018 from one billion units in 2015.1

The future will be far more fascinating; over the next couple of years, tens of thousands of devices will be connected to smartphones. Smartphone sensors will likely be friends and interact seamlessly with sensors in other connected devices, such as wearables, cars, home sensors, and a host of other devices. In the near future, the vision of smartphones becoming personalized technology hubs might become reality, wherein smartphones will interact with all connected devices, aggregate and analyze data gathered from the multiple devices, and present actionable insights to the consumer.2

However, for this vision to be realized, the development of power-efficient advanced sensors with embedded intelligence will likely be imperative. Sensor manufacturers should design their next-generation processors in a way that can enable intuitive user experience through advanced sensor processing and context awareness features.

Curious to know more about how smartphones can better connect sensors? Explore our findings in a recently published article on Deloitte University Press, “Your personalized technology hub.”

Sensors find their application not just in the lives of common people, but also in various business and industrial applications. Explore more in our Advanced Technologies Initiative: Manufacturing & Innovation study.


1Chad Lucien, Reader Forum: Sensor adoption in smartphones, RCR Wireless, March 02,2015, http://www.rcrwireless.com/20150302/opinion/reader-forum-sensor-adoption-in-smartphones-tag10
2Led by iPhone 6S, Sensor Hubs Market is Growing Fast, IHS Says, IHS, January 20, 2016,
http://press.ihs.com/press-release/technology/led-iphone-6s-sensor-hubs-market-growing-fast-ihs-says
3Dr. Preeta M. Banerjee, Philip Wilson, & Craig Wigginton, “Your personalized technology hub-Interconnectivity, intelligence, and identity in tomorrow’s smartphones”, July 11, 2016, DU Press, http://dupress.com/articles/personalized-technology-hub-smartphone-of-the-future/

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