Economic Development News & Insight


A huge new technology marketplace emerging

Mary Scott Nabers / October 28, 2015


A huge new technology marketplace emerging

There’s an overlooked marketplace – one that is huge and growing at breakneck speed. Its size was calculated at $13.2 billion in 2014 and it is projected to reach nearly $20.5 billion by 2020. What is it? It’s the global marketplace for environmental sensing and monitoring technology.

The good news: Large-scale E is inherently based in public-private collaborations. That means that government officials are reaching out to private-sector firms. It is also one of the highest priorities for public agencies, states and cities. That means that the growth potential is huge. All this translates into all types of opportunities for companies engaged in the development, distribution and servicing of environmental monitoring products and data analysis.

Environmental sensing is an industry sector that is not yet understood by the masses. That’s because the concept is relatively new – at least the aggressive pursuit of such monitoring is rather new. But, as public officials receive encouragement and often mandates to follow rigid sustainability guidelines, monitoring the environment will be a very high priority.

Environmental sensing technology uses various types of small sensors that interact with software networks to track and record data on a myriad of changes that take place continually. To get a little more technical, contaminants such as metals, volatile organic compounds, biological contaminants and radioisotopes must be continually monitored because of the significant impact they have on the environment.

Sensors come in literally thousands of sizes, shapes and types. And, there are many types of applications that can be used to monitor water supplies, vehicular emissions, combustion of fossil fuels, agricultural run-off, the disposal of industrial and mine waste, ocean spills, weather patterns, climate change and seismic events. Some applications continually search for intentionally placed chemicals and/or biohazards that could be linked to terrorist activity. Satellites use environmental sensors to gather large-scale, comprehensive data, and the Internet is used to provide broad access throughout the globe.

The growth of this marketplace is fueled and impacted positively or negatively by many things, but governments worldwide have ramped up initiatives and funding for environmental sensing services. Public officials in every jurisdiction work to prevent and control pollution of air, soil and water.

Three trends dominate the environmental sensing and monitoring sectors:

  • Miniaturization, which is lowering material costs and energy requirements;
  • Improved specificity of sensor detection, allowing lower threshold levels of detection and finer resolution in sensing chemicals; and
  • The explosion in the number, extent and capacity of environmental sensor and monitoring networks. In the U.S. alone, government is spending nearly $500 million a year on maintenance and operation of networks.

Pollution control and weather monitoring efforts currently total about $250 billion in economic activity in the U.S. Where once large, stationary, expensive sensors were required, monitoring today can be done with much smaller and less costly equipment. That has allowed the services to become feasible for cities, counties and states. It also has spurred the growth of small businesses that offer sensors, services and data analysis. Companies are even developing wearable pollution monitors to ensure that worker safety is maintained.

The initiatives are almost mind-boggling. UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) is a major research enterprise that focuses on developing and applying wireless sensing systems to critical scientific and societal pursuits. In the same way the Internet transformed our ability to communicate, the decreasing size and cost of computing components is setting the stage for a major shift in detection, processing and communication technology.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fully supports even more rigid mandates and that encourages the development of even small, portable, low-cost devices. As more competition evolves, collaborations between public and private partners proliferate as well. A state-funded initiative in Utah recently involved a university, private-sector transportation firms and the media. The objective was to capture data on ozone and greenhouse gases in the Wasatch mountain range.

Such opportunities are abundant and the successful ones are often small pilot projects that expand quickly. The companies that will profit from this multi-billion-dollar industry are those that proactively approach government, armed with innovative, cost-effective solutions and a viable means to implement them.

This is a marketplace that should not be overlooked.

Mary Scott NabersMary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., an Austin-based business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. and author of Collaboration NationContact Mary at or visit



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