Delft University of Technology is bringing together its disparate intelligent-sensors research under a single virtual institute in response to growing demand for sentient technologies.
The university is founding the Delft Institute for Intelligent Sensor MicroSystems (DISens). Its aim is to speed research into sensors that mimic the human senses.
Johan Huijsing, founder and scientific director of the Dutch institute, said: "The wave of 'sensorisation' will have the same impact on society that the start of the information age had."
Professor Huijsing said he was confident the institute would help to raise the profile of sensor research and would lead to cooperation between the university and sensor companies in Delft.
"A number of companies that are active in the field of sensors have settled in and around Delft, and their business fits very well into the research we are doing," Professor Huijsing said.
Intelligent sensors may soon be able to provide more fully automated "living technologies".
Professor Huijsing said that it would not be too long before a commuter steps into the car, says "drive home", then is driven home automatically.
Using intelligent sensors, the car will follow the road and take other traffic into account. Braking will be smooth and the car will never skid. Sensors measuring the exhaust gas composition will make the car run efficiently.
These sensors will also start to play an important part in health care, especially in medical instrumentation. Surgeons will make increasing use of instruments that are introduced into the body through veins or small openings.
At Delft, a chip is being developed that measures blood pressure, temperature, the speed of the blood flow and the oxygen saturation level.