Environmental Sensing and Monitoring Technologies: Global Markets




There are two principal trends of note in the environmental sensing and monitoring business. The first is the technological revolution in the design and engineering of individual sensors and sensor components. The trend in terms of individual sensors is toward miniaturization. Making sensors smaller lowers material costs and energy requirements and makes large distributed networks possible.

Indeed, the second principal trend is the development of environmental sensor and monitoring networks themselves. There is an explosion in the number, extent, and capacity of these networks, so much so that this report can only provide a sampling. At the governmental level alone, annual expenditures on maintenance and operation of these networks is nearly $500 million just in the U.S.

Sensor networks allow distributed sensing capacity, real-time data visualization and analysis, and integration with adjacent networks and remote sensing data streams. Underpinning the development of networks is the miniaturization of electronics, the availability of massive data storage and computational capacity, and the Internet. As this report documents, environmental sensor networks have been firmly established, and large new networks are actively in development. New projects range from those that are continental in scope to those that only monitor local conditions. The range of variables measured includes daily CO2 fluxes to decadal shifts in temperatures. Sensor systems can monitor physical and biological activity, as well as measure groundwater fluxes and nutrient dynamics.


The global environmental remediation and monitoring business is huge. In the U.S. market alone, some $250 billion of economic output stems from all pollution control and monitoring activities each year. Among the faster-growing segments of this clean-up business are the markets for sophisticated sensors; monitoring equipment; and large-scale networks, such as satellite, GPS, and remote sensing; associated networking equipment and ancillaries; and a large slate of new technologies. Globally, the markets for environmental sensors and the related sub-segments (e.g., monitoring, networks, remote sensing) account for approximately $13 billion of economic activity at present, with a projected average annual growth of 5.4% through 2016.

The purpose of this report is to measure and forecast the demand for sensor equipment, systems, and networks that are sold for terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric environmental sensing. The report defines markets for sensors and/or sensor systems (e.g., monitoring networks), and then separately defines markets for the advanced materials and advanced sensor concepts that represent markets of the future. In regard to cutting edge developments, nanotechnology, for which considerable EPA and NSF research dollars have been expended, is covered. Nanotechnology-based chemical sensors can provide high-sensitivity, low-power, and low-cost portable tools for in situ chemical analysis in space and terrestrial applications. An additional purpose of this report is to assess the needs of long-term environmental monitoring applications and to summarize the capabilities of emerging sensor technologies.

Environmental sensors come in literally thousands of forms and types based on a wide range of physical and chemical principles with varying types of usable outputs. Typical contaminants monitored are metals, volatile organic compounds, biological contaminants, and radioisotopes. The field applications of sensors are also extremely varied. Among the key trends in the environmental sensors business is miniaturization down to the nano scale, continuous and/or real-time sensing capabilities, wireless networked operation, rapid processing, and increased sensitivity or flexibility. Areas of environmental focus include vehicular emissions, combustion of fossil fuels, agricultural runoff, industrial and mine waste disposal, ocean spills and dumping, and climate change and weather monitoring.

Environmental sensors and monitoring technologies have not only become a substantial high-technology business, but future growth is almost pre-ordained due to the fact that global economies must manage their environmental impact or eventually destroy themselves. At the same time that environmental clean-up is more or less forced onto the policy-making agenda, technology revolutions in nanotechnology, semiconductors (e.g., lab-on-a-chip), and communications are facilitating sensor product development and implementation.


This BCC study focuses on key environmental sensor technologies and applications. It also provides data regarding the size and growth of numerous sensor markets, company profiles, and industry trends. Cutting edge developments, research priorities, and potential business opportunities are also examined.

This report covers:

* The environmental sensor industry and its structure, and the many companies involved in providing these products
* Emerging growth areas, such as large-scale monitoring networks.
* Development stage companies in which the most innovative technologies are originating
* Markets for environmental sensors, including passive, active, electromechanical, and semiconductors
* Sensor applications in temperature sensing, moisture detection, and biological and chemical detection
* Company profiles, including overseas manufacturers
* Patent activity

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With its broad scope and in-depth analyses, this study will prove to be a valuable resource for anyone involved with or interested in environmental sensors. It will be particularly useful for researchers; laboratory and government personnel working in research or company settings; and business professionals, such as marketing managers, strategic planners, forecasters, and new product and business developers who are involved with most aspects of the sensors industry. It also will be of value to potential investors and members of the general public who are interested in acquiring a business-oriented view of the use of sensors in environmental monitoring. The projections, forecasts, and trend analyses found in this report provide readers with the necessary data and information for decision making.


Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in the preparation of this study. The research methodology was both quantitative and qualitative in nature. Market data was derived from trade sources, self-reported data by companies, and government statistics covering the pollution control markets and the sensor and instrumentation markets. The most recent academic literature on environmental sensors was reviewed. Other key market information sources include sensor magazines and journals, books, trade literature, marketing literature, product and promotional literature, annual reports, security analyst reports, and government publications. A patent search and analysis was conducted.


As is the case with most high-technology industries and economic sectors, data resources analyzing sensor technologies have become vast. There are numerous referred journals devoted solely to sensor technology, not to mention environmental journals that report on larger systems issues or strategic and economic issues in environmental management. Data sources employed include government economic and output data; press releases on company websites that include application news, company news, marketing news, and product news; brochures; product literature; sensor magazines; technical journals; technical books; marketing literature; promotional literature; annual reports; security analyst reports; and other sensor business digest publications. An extensive patent analysis was conducted to gauge technological innovation and to determine research activity as it applies to new product development.


Research analyst Kevin Gainer is the former Managing Editor of the BCC journal ENERGY. He holds both B.A. and M.A. degrees in Quantitative Economic Analysis, a well as a minor in Environmental Science, and has 25 years of economics and market research experience, including 9 years as an energy analyst at the American Electric Power Corporation. He is the author of five published books, as well as dozens of technical papers, analyses, and studies published in conference proceedings and many unpublished within corporations. He has worked as a research editor at BCC Research since 1995 and has authored many BCC technology market research reports.

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