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FreeMotion software boosts smartphone context-awareness

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FreeMotion software library? 32bit embedded processors? 64bit application processors? sensor data? context awareness?

Sensor Platforms has recently rolled out the latest version of its FreeMotion software library. The software library now includes features that improve the context awareness of mobile devices, making them smarter and less power-hungry.

Updates to FreeMotion are available in beta version this quarter and a production version expected late in the first quarter of 2013. FreeMotion algorithms interpret sensor data to infer detailed information, such as whether the device is in motion, how the device is being carried, user posture of the user, and the mode of transportation, such as car or plane.

The average office worker uses a mobile device about 6 per cent of his or her waking hours, said Ian Chen, Sensor Platforms' executive vice president.

"We thought surely sensorssince they'll be available 100 per cent of the timethere has to be something that sensors can do the other 94 per cent of the time," Chen said.

In July, Sensor Platforms announced FreeMotion supported all major mobile microprocessors, including 32bit embedded processors, such as ARM's Cortex-M, and 64bit application processors such as Intel's Atom, Qualcomm's Snapdragon, and TI's OMAP processors.

The library update means not only that designers can work to cut power consumption (a device, for instance, would turn off GPS if the user is stationary), but developers can build smarter applications, such as preventing "butt-dialling" because the system knows the phone is tucked in your back pocket.

FreeMotion customers choose a la carte the context algorithms they want to use; Sensor Platforms derives revenue from taking a percentage of unit shipments, Chen said. The software is designed to be distributed architecturally, Chen said.


"However we decide to partition ourselves today, we'd be wrong tomorrow. We can run in the sensor hub or run a piece in the apps processor," he said. FreeMotion's system-power benefits are in their early stages, Chen suggested.

"We have to start working with OEMS. Someone has to make human-factor decisions," Chen said. "We can be aggressive in turning off the backlight or GPS, but there may be inconveniences."

"Context-aware computing is coming," said Chen, who was featured in EE Times' 40th anniversary coverage as an innovator to watch in the coming years. "FreeMotion is an extension of context awareness." (see Context is King, says Sensor Platforms exec)

Chen said Sensor Platforms' first-generation product "led us to think how are people using sensors," in devices where often there are to 18 different sensors built in.

He spent three days analysing all sensor-relevant apps on Google Play and discovered that nearly half the apps are simply graphical rerprsentation of whatever the sensor is telling thema compass, horizons finding, torque meter and so forth. (Surprisingly, Chen found 10 per cent of the apps he examined are used to electromagnetic pulses to help people sense ghosts).

Such context-aware software is broadly applicable, Chen acknowledges, pointing to dedicated systems for health-care applications. He declined to comment on Sensor Platforms' military engagements, other than to say "there are training application implications."

- Brian Fuller
??EE Times

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