According to Lux Research, investors have invested $4.3 billion into the development of sensors over the past ten years.  However it’s the pattern of the 28,927 sensor patents that were given since 1975 that actually unveils the value and potential of these patents.

Lux Research studied patent trends for five kinds of sensors.  These included physical, gas and chemical, environmental, vital signs and biometric ones.  These were studied across five value groups: automotive, food and agriculture, medical, consumer, and building and industrial, in order to pinpoint markets that were growing and markets that are already overly competitive.

The studies show that sensor patents targeted at consumer electronics and medical device industries have the least entry barriers, whereas those patented for automotive, and building and industrial use have the biggest barriers.

“While the physical sensor patent space is the most crowded, there are opportunities for component and module manufacturers even in industries that have high barriers to entry,” stated Tiffany Huang, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report titled, “Sensor Patent Landscape: Sorting through the Crowd in Search of Gold.”

She went on to say, “An approach focusing on unmet technical needs in each market will lead to success.”

A lot of new sensor patents

There were some important bits of information discovered by the Lux Research study.  Physical sensors get the most patents, with a total of 28, 927 of these being granted since 1975.  Next in line are gas and chemical sensors with 2, 446.  Most patents don’t target a specific industry, but the most popular focus of those that do is the building and industrial space.

Corporations have the patent market cornered, with 71 percent of sensor patents going to corporations.  Universities and independent research groups get the rest. Honeywell holds the most patents among corporations, racking up a total of 1,354, of which most are for physical sensors. Coming in second, is General Electric, with 989 and Northrop Grumman, with 752.

It’s the quality of the patent that is important. Although Honeywell has the most patents, Bosch is the leader in building and industrial, consumer and automotive segments.