Sensors are devices which receive and respond to signals. A sensor's sensitivity indicates how much the sensor's output changes when the measured quantity changes.
Sensors that measure very small changes must have very high sensitivities. Sensors also have an impact on what they measure; for instance, a room temperature thermometer inserted into a hot cup of liquid cools the liquid while the liquid heats the thermometer. Sensors need to be designed to have a small effect on what is measured; making the sensor smaller often improves this and may introduce other advantages. Technological progress allows more and more sensors to be manufactured on a microscopic scale as micro sensors using MEMS technology.
The advances in MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) technologies and techniques means that manufacturers are now able to produce very capable MEMS sensors and devices, but many cannot be installed directly into an end application because they cannot survive the rigors of final assembly. Conversely, conventional sensors can survive just about any assembly process and any application, but are perceived as being too big and expensive. The challenge manufacturers of commercial products is to take the MEMS price and form factor, and package it into something able to withstand harsh environments.
Moving forward, it is this second level of packaging that must be envisioned and understood by specialist manufacturers to realize growth potential. Today, the majority of industry innovation and commercial opportunities are centered on the application of existing MEMS devices, in addition to new ways to package and integrate MEMS devices.