Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-3 - 3

Future Trends for I&M
Katelyn Brinker and Reza Zoughi

T

he field of Instrumentation and Measurement (I&M)
is constantly and rapidly changing. These changes
manifest themselves as evolutions of technologies
and techniques but also as innovations. They come from the
technical creativity of people in this field and also from advances in other fields. Conversely, advances in I&M also lead
to advances in other fields. Given this two-way relationship,
while it is impossible to know the future, we can look at emerging trends across different technological fields and application
realms and begin to predict what trends may be at the forefront
of I&M over the next five years. These trends can be examined
as Trends of Choice and Trends of Consequence (Fig. 1).
Trends of Choice are those that emerge as a result of the
benefits they offer and the conscious decision of engineers,
scientists, and society as a whole to take advantage of those
benefits. Examples include: automation, miniaturization, connectivity, and accessibility, to name a few. On the other hand,
Trends of Consequence are those that emerge as a result of other
technological advances and in some cases as a consequence of
Trends of Choice. They are typically considered challenges that
are difficult to overcome and are therefore being addressed
frequently. Examples of Trends of Consequence are Big Data, the

Fig. 1. Distribution of future trends in the I&M field.
May 2020	

growing concern about privacy and security, and the idea of
having equity and accountability in technology development
and usage.
Lastly, there are the trends that could be considered as both
Trends of Choice and Trends of Consequence. These trends are
both dependent on others and beneficial in their own right. Examples include: Artificial Intelligence (AI), adaptability, and
sustainability. It is important to note that these trends also influence and feed off of each other, just as advances in other
technological fields drive advances in I&M and vice versa.
In this article, we will examine these trends across different
application realms and attempt to envision what the I&M field
could look like in the next five years. As a disclaimer, we do not
know the future and we are not experts on everything. This article by nature cannot be completely objective as we cannot
analyze every piece of work out there and capture every influential factor of our complex world.

Trends of Choice
Trends of Choice have resulted from conscious decisions. These
include the choice to automate processes, the choice to miniaturize to create more compact pieces of instrumentation, the
choice to increase connectivity and in turn the growing field of
Internet of Things (IoT), and the choice to create more accessible technologies.
Automation is present in many different application realms,
with manufacturing, robotic inspection, and autonomous vehicles being just a few illustrative examples. According to the
Capgemini Research Institute, automation in various forms,
is revolutionizing business practices by enhancing efficiency,
productivity, and quality. Yet, there are still certain challenges
associated with the trend of automation, including scalability
which is related to how adaptable and sustainable the automation techniques are [1].
Automation can be looked at in terms of mechanical process-based automation, rule-based automation, and AI. In
this article, AI, along with adaptability and sustainability,
are considered to be trends that extend beyond the scope of
automation and will thus be considered separately later. In

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	3
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Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-3

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