Electric field sensing refers to using a sensory system that utilizes an electric field that detects nearby objects, provided they are at least slightly conductive. One such sensory system is the People Detector, a device that senses the presence of moving and stationary objects near solid materials. It detects changes ranging between a few centimetres to 4 meters.
Electric field sensing is one of the technologies used by smart cars to detect roads and nearby cars, allowing them to avoid collisions and straying from the right path.
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Electric field sensing doesn’t affect non-conductive materials (soil, rubber, etc.), allowing them to stay hidden from view and unaffected by harmful elements (rain, sunlight, etc.).
How Does Electric Field Sensing Work?
Electric field detectors create an ultra-low-power magnetic field (making them invisible) that senses the presence of all conductive objects (electricity can pass through them) within the area covered. Still a bit confused? Watch this video that shows how electric field sensing works:
What Is Electric Field Sensing Used For?
Electric field sensing has several practical applications. We noted some of them below.
Quasar Federal Systems (QFS) developed a gunfire location system that uses electric field sensing. The system can be integrated into gunners’ turrets (even on vehicles, including aircraft and ships), mounted on helmets or body armor, and more. It detects passing gunfire and gives location information to indicate its origin.
LOM produced a device that senses the sounds produced by the electromagnetic fields in our surroundings and lets users listen to them. It sounds a bit complex but maybe watching this video can clear up the cobwebs:
QFS also developed electric field sensing systems that can be mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It can measure the charge that lightning distributes to clouds, hopefully providing real-time data to support weather nowcasting and warning systems.
Construction workers can wear electric field sensing devices that warn them through audible or visual alerts when they come near a live power circuit that could put them in harm’s way. It can also wirelessly trip a wireless circuit breaker to notify emergency responders of electrical contact during accidents.
Wireless behavioral monitoring systems with electric field sensing capability can get information regarding people’s use of home electric appliances (TV, microwave oven, etc.) by measuring the electric field around them. The statistics can provide data on how people behave at home, allowing analysis of their daily appliance usage (how many times they use an appliance, what time they do so, etc.).
Intel created a robotic arm in 2007 that can distinguish between plastic bottles that had water in them and those that did not. It didn’t need to touch the bottles but instead used electric field sensing. When an electric field interacts with the water in a bottle, sensors determine changes and cause the robot to behave in specific ways.
Apple began making the iPhone 12 onward capable of people detection using the Magnifier app. Electric field sensing allows the latest iPhone users to sense people, allowing them to maintain a specific physical or social distance from them. Users get notified with sounds, speech, or haptic feedback. The feedback becomes more frequent when people get closer.
Who Are the World’s Biggest Electric Field Sensing Device Vendors?
Today’s global electric field sensor market leaders include Honeywell, Omron, Senix Corporation, Murata, 3M, Schneider Electric, Multicomp, Crossmatch Technologies, NEC Corporation, Infineon Technologies, Safran, Pise Biometrics, Fulcrum Biometrics, Zkteco, Prowave, Rockwell Automation, Gems Sensors, and Banner Engineering.
Given the numerous uses of electric field sensing, it’s not surprising that the market for electronic field sensing-enabled systems continues to grow over the years, as evidenced by data from Transparency Market Research. At present, North America is leading the market with the most significant share. Maximize Market Research revealed that the global electric field sensor market was worth US$195.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach US$321.4 billion by the end of 2027 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2%.