The fact that I spend too much time focusing on consumer electronics was brought home to me vividly by a visit to the recent Sensors Expo 2011 in Chicago. Far from the niche show that I expected, it was swamped by over 4,000 attendees checking out 140 exhibiting companies, making navigating the aisles a good application for GPS, LIDAR, a 3-axis accelerometer and a collision-avoidance system.

While the bulk of the $9.7-billion U.S. sensors market comprises MEMS-based accelerometers