AZoSensors spoke to Calumn MacGregor and Rachael Yates from Gas Sensing Solutions, about their products and attending Sensors Expo.
Can you give the brief overview of Gas Sensing Solutions, the kind of products you sell and the market you serve?
At Gas Sensing Solutions, we manufacture, customize and develop CO2 gas sensors for a range of markets. We provide for the air quality and HVAC market, so there could be health and safety measures in schools, in homes or it could be in offices as part of a smart building. That also includes things like wearable safety solutions, so for example people in the drinks industry who are delivering goods to pub cellars – there are safety measures there to make sure that there isn’t any leakage from the CO2 canisters.
Another big market for us is healthcare. This incorporates breath analysis (including breath analysis in sports science) and testing metabolic rates, for example in fitness applications or capnography, where it can be used to help determine and assess things like lung diseases or help to monitor asthma.
We provide a lot of sensors to the horticultural and food processing market, and this includes things like modified atmosphere packaging (or MAP as it’s called in the industry) – this is where CO2 is used to keep food fresher for longer, like you’d see in the supermarkets. Our sensors are also used to achieve optimum results with plant growth.
A further big market is industrial safety. That incorporates things like rebreathers for diving, including for example recreational diving, military diving, and also leak detection in refrigeration applications. There is also various instrumentation that’s used within the industrial safety market.
Our sensors might be used in the transport industry, for example in freight applications for transporting goods and materials and in shipping containers. They’re also used in aerospace, for example in planes to monitor the quality of the air in the cabin, making sure it doesn’t exceed high levels of CO2 for peoples’ comfort and safety.
An especially exciting market for us is space. Our sensors have been up into space on the ISS a few times now. They have been used in a number of space-based experiments and also to test the environment that the astronauts may be working in to see what the effect of CO2 levels are on them when they’re carrying out their duties and tasks up on the space station.
Overall, it very much depends on what the application is. Our sensors are ideal for portable or hand-held applications where power consumption is critical. This could be a wearable sensor that’s attached to someone’s clothing, or it could be a hand-held instrument. They are ideal for Internet of Things applications.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but those are the main sectors that we’re active in.
People also contact us about new weird and wonderful applications. We’ll usually work with them to make their idea work, whether it’s using an existing sensor from the range, customizing and tweaking an existing sensor or even when it’s making something completely new from scratch.
Why are you attending Sensors Expo 2018 and what products do you plan to highlight?
We’ve been for a few years now, so we’re continuing that tradition. It’s been a pretty successful show for us in the past, and we’re very much active around the world. We’ve got sensors in about 50 countries so it’s important for us to hit international markets, and Sensors Expo is one of the ones that reaches parts that the European shows or Asian shows don’t reach. This is continuity for us – it’s continuing to address our North American markets, but we also see a range of Asian visitors here as well.
Specifically, this year we’re promoting one of our brands which is the ExplorIR® sensor family. It’s a general purpose, robust, does-everything range and that’s the one we’re going to be specifically promoting. Just getting our name out more – partly re-contacting customers we already have there and partly hoping to make new contacts, open new conversations and establish new friendships.Could you please explain the basic theory behind your ExplorIR® sensor and the benefits it can provide to users?
The ExplorIR® is designed for tough and hostile environments – for example you could be dealing with extremes of pressure, or unstable environments with lots of vibrations and shocks.
To give a bit of background, the two ExplorIR® sensors we had weren’t aligned under a brand family and we had them under different names. The idea was to make a nice neat family for the ExplorIR® sensor.
We already have our CozIR® range which is low power, and we have the SprintIR® range which is high speed, so we just felt we needed something to slot in with that as a nice neat brand family. The name ExplorIR® was quite an obvious choice because the ExplorIR® sensors have been up into space, they’ve been down under the sea and they’ve had to endure these tough, challenging environments. Plus, ExplorIR® has nice connotations of going off exploring and that fits with the space and underwater diving exploration theme. It really seemed to make sense.
The ExplorIR® sensors will be going into these tough and challenging environments but despite that, they’re able to give accurate, reliable readings. They’re also low power, so they can be used in battery applications. They have a small form factor, so they can fit inside even a small instrument or wearable device. Altogether they give lots of benefits for end users.
How does your ExplorIR® range differ from your SprintIR® range?
You’ll notice on our brands, we have IR on the end which stands for infrared, but we kind of incorporated that into the name, so you have the ExplorIR®, SprintIR® and CozIR®.
The SprintIR® brand is there to give high speed measurements, hence the name. You can get 20 readings every single second and it also has a very fast response time. Our engineers have managed to achieve that by designing a very small sample chamber which means it’s able to offer very fast response and high speed measurements.
We can also make custom sensors with an even higher speed, so if customers need something special developing or if they need something to go even faster for a specific application, we do have that capability in-house.
We’ve got engineers here in-house up in Scotland and they spend their time developing, working on and enhancing our sensors as well as creating new ones. The custom sensor offering is very much something that’s part of our business.
From a user’s perspective, would you say that your custom offering gives your technology a competitive advantage, or is there anything else you feel gives you that competitive advantage?
We have three big advantages. One is low power. We have the lowest power sensor on the market and compared to the competitors it is between 10 and 100 times lower power, so it’s a huge benefit.
Secondly, we offer high speed. We can measure much faster than anything else in our class, so typically our sensors are working in applications where the alternatives in the high speed market are many times the price.
Thirdly, the sensor’s robustness. They last a long time, they’re tough, they can take vibration and pressure and bumps and shocks.
Overall, low power, high speed and robustness are the big competitive advantages that we have.
After Sensors Expo, what’s next for Gas Sensing Solutions?
We’ve had a really successful few years growing both our product range and growing geographically, so we’ll be continuing more of the same.
We do have a very broad application base and the focus for us is just to grow more into these sectors. You got a sense of that in the answer to your first question; there are all these different markets that we are working in, so we are gradually tuning our brands and our offerings to match these.
We’re looking at the possibility of measuring other gases too. It is interesting, but we need to ensure that there is a market need.
On the whole, it’s about making more of our existing benefits which are going faster, using less power and making our sensors more robust.