The Sensor Technology Summit
In July, AIHA’s Sensor Technology Summit brought 16 experts to AIHA headquarters in Falls Church, Va., to discuss an emerging issue that has potential to fundamentally alter the way we do our work. The attendees came from large chemical producers, manufacturing, multinational energy corporations, and other industries. Our goal was to determine how sensor technologies are being used today, how they might be used tomorrow, and their implications for protecting worker health. I wanted to take a moment to explain how we arrived at our first scientific summit and how this is new for AIHA.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE For 75 years, AIHA relied heavily on volunteers to generate ideas for IH education products, services, and other activities. By example, an idea for a book would bubble up from a committee, and that book would get written—without anyone really understanding if the profession would value the book. This process no longer aligns with our strategic approach to spending resources where they do the most good, for both our mission and the sustainability of our association.
Instead of waiting for ideas to be generated, AIHA will now proactively go after the ideas through a systematic process to identify not just what IHs need now, but what they will need five and ten years from now. The Summit was our first attempt at this approach, and will serve as a model for how we undertake complex projects in the future. 
We could have held a Summit on any number of issues important to the profession, so why did we choose sensor technology? You might remember that sensor technology and “big data” were two of the topics identified as emerging priorities by AIHA’s Content Portfolio Management Team. The Summit format provided a way to immerse ourselves in these issues, get the perspectives of experts who are already dealing with their implications, and begin to figure out what role AIHA should play in supporting members on this topic. 
One of the people who will play a key role in these projects is Mr. Russ Hayward, CIH, AIHA’s new managing director of Scientific and Technical Initiatives. Russ joined the staff in April after 29 years at ExxonMobil, where he was the Americas IH Manager. He has extensive experience in leadership, developing IH strategies, and deploying IH initiatives. Russ and Mark Milroy, AIHA’s managing director of Global Learning, arranged the logistics for the Summit and were on hand to contribute to the discussions and capture ideas.
We could potentially have far more information than we ever imagined. How do we manage the sheer volume of data?
ESTABLISHING A SCOPE OF WORK The Summit attendees were invited to participate, and were evenly split between managers and field staff. Each attendee received a copy of a report, The Future of Sensors, which discussed how sensors are used in our profession and summarized the sensor technology landscape. You can download a PDF of the report from the website of the AIHA Guideline Foundation. 
The discussions raised a number of practical issues that need further exploration. For example, we typically make professional judgments based on limited sampling. Only relatively recently, through statistical techniques such as Bayesian decision analysis, have we developed tools to improve our judgments in circumstances where information on exposures is thin. But sensors turn this problem on its head: we could potentially have far more information than we ever imagined. How do we manage the sheer volume of data? Will field sampling be redefined as practitioners focus on becoming “exposure data analysts,” as John Howard asked at AIHce 2014 in San Antonio?
These are intricate questions that no two-day event alone can answer, and in the coming months you’ll be reading more about them in The Synergist. But at a time when the global economy is geared toward producing sensors for many applications, the ideas generated at the Summit will help us direct that trend in ways that help us protect worker health.

STEVEN LACEY, PHD, CIH, CSP, is AIHA president and chair of Environmental Health Science at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He can be reached at (317) 274-3120 or