Sustainable Energy

The tiny sensors transforming our lives

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
The tiny sensors transforming our lives

You may not be familiar with them, but microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, are an integral part of our daily lives.

Used in everything from our kitchens and cars to the offices we work in, the devices provide information on the "physical properties of their immediate or local environment," according to the MEMS and Sensors Industry Group.

In France, one company is looking to harness the power of MEMS in some of the world's harshest environments - including oil wells.

"The fact that it's small makes it react very quickly to changes in temperature and, in oil wells, temperature is a very high cause of either errors in measurements or issues with the sensors itself," Emmanuel Tavernier, research and development manager at Openfield Technology, said.

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The small size of MEMS is another advantage. "The beauty of this technology is that it leads to numerous benefits over microscopic traditional devices: drastic cost reduction, higher performance, higher reliability, low power consumption," Linda Abbassi, program manager at Openfield Technology, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"Also, smaller means lighter, easier to deploy and more robust," Abbassi added.

Looking at the broader picture, the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, while consuming a lot of energy itself, offers opportunities to other sectors to help cut their energy bills.

"ICT in general burns a lot of energy – it's about two percent maybe of the total energy budget globally – but you have to put that in perspective," Mischa Dohler, head of the Center for Telecommunications Research at King's College London, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"ICT allows us… to actually lower the energy budget of other verticals. Think of heavy industries like oil and gas, we know now how better to find certain resources," he added.

"Think of the travel industry, think of being at home, being able to control your lights more efficiently... there are loads of opportunities with the ICT sector."