As forecasts for sensor demand continues to climb, driven in part by the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) applications, TE Connectivity has been shoring up its sensors business with two key acquisitions over the past year. Both acquisitions are a big part of the $12-billion global interconnectivity provider’s strategy to expand its leadership in harsh environment connectivity and sensor solutions.
Built on the foundation of its automotive sensors portfolio, which was part of TE’s automotive business unit, the new TE Sensors Solutions business is now comprised of the company's recent acquisitions of Measurement Specialties and American Sensor Technologies (AST).
TE Connectivity purchased Measurement Specialties in June 2014, which was followed by the acquisition of AST in September 2014. Measurement Specialties manufactures a broad range of sensors including pressure, vibration, force, temperature, humidity, ultrasonic, position and fluid. Applications for these devices include aerospace and military, consumer goods, engine and vehicle, and medical.
AST specializes in developing sensors for use in high performance, harsh and extreme environments such as high corrosion, high and low temperatures, and toxic and hazardous materials.
“Part of our strategy and part of what we’re known for in the connectivity space is a highly engineered, collaborative approach in designing solutions that will work for our customers. This was a big part of the acquisitions and a big part of what we are going to continue to focus on in the sensors space,” said Keith Myers, senior director, marketing for TE Sensor Solutions. “It’s being the leader in harsh environments and working very closely with our customers to give them the solutions that will allow them to succeed. It’s a perfect fit for us in a market that is growing and evolving.”
Prior to the acquisitions, TE Connectivity’s sensor line primarily centered on automotive sensors and magneto inductive industrial sensors. With the acquisitions, the sensors portfolio is now in line with the industries that TE serves in the connectivity business. The company also shed its Circuit Protection Devices (CPD) portfolio – selling the business unit to Littelfuse Inc. for $350 million – to focus on its harsh environment connectivity and sensor solutions.
The upside of these moves could be significant with sensors becoming a key part of automotive technology and IoT applications. The automotive sensors market, alone, is forecast to reach $17.1 billion by 2020, according to a report published by IndustryARC.
“Our sensors business started in automotive,” explained Myers. “On the connectivity side we are working closely with OEM partners and built up the sensors business as part of the automotive business unit.”
A big part of the decision to acquire the sensor manufacturers is that it allowed TE Connectivity to bring sensors to other vertical markets – industrial, aerospace, appliances, and consumer electronics – where the company has an established leadership position from a connectivity standpoint, he added. “It allowed us to take the model that we were very optimistic about in automotive and extend it to the other industries we serve.”
TE provides standard and customized sensor solutions across a range of industries, and continues to focus on sensor products and technologies, including pressure, position, and temperature measurement. One of the latest product introductions is the 86BC pressure sensor that delivers a small profile in a rugged housing to provide accurate measurement in harsh environments. The company also offers a new series of LVDTs that can withstand temperatures over a range of -20 °C to +200 °C.
While product development continues across all industries, TE is now focused on leveraging the synergies between the sensors portfolio and its connectivity business, as well as the prioritization of its go-to-market strategy.
Automotive continues to have good growth potential as well as medical and industrial IoT, said Myers. “We feel that the opportunity – the upside – is significant in almost all of the industry verticals in which we’re playing. It’s a matter of our prioritization in terms of go to market, and where we’re placing all of our investments.”