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Smart sensor touts multiple programmable features

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:image sensor? IoT? smart sensor? FPGA?

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the deployment of numerous sensors are receiving a lot of attention these days, particularly the concept of smart sensors and "processing on the edge."

Consider the case of a sensor that detects whether or not someone is in a room, and uses this information to activate or dim the lights, for example. The original technologies used for this type of application were relatively simple, such as PIR (passive infrared) sensors that were used for motion detection. One problem with these older technologies was lack of intelligence, resulting in the lights being extinguished if the room's occupants stopped moving around for any length of time.

Smart sensor platform

More sophisticated image sensors require significant amounts of image processing. Compressing the image data to transmit it for remote processing can degrade the image; the act of transmitting large amounts of image data consumes power; and processing the image data remotely can degrade the speed of any necessary responses.

The solution is to use smart sensors that perform their own image processing "on the edge" of the network. This allows them to quickly make local decisions and, if they deem it necessary, to transmit small amounts of useful information ("There are currently three people in the room") rather than huge amounts of raw data to a higher-level system for additional decision-making.

Forza Silicon is at the forefront of low-power sensor design. Lattice Semiconductor is a leader in the creation of compact, low-power, high-performance FPGAs. Now, Forza and Lattice have teamed to develop a smart sensor platform in which the sensor is integrated with a low-power MachXO2-7000 FPGA from Lattice.

The result is a fully reconfigurable image sensor design with multiple programmable features and functions within a single chip. The FPGA's programmable fabric can be configured to provide functionality that is not offered by existing MCU-based solutions. This allows a wide variety of image processing functions to be performed on-chip, including colour balancing, high dynamic range, motion detection, and object and facial recognition.

Image sensor design

Furthermore, the chip can be configured to support a wide variety of system interfaces, including network connections (e.g., Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth), memory processors, USB, etc. A good overview of this smart sensor is provided in this video:

This type of smart sensor opens up a wealth of application possibilities in automobiles, homes and factories, to name but a fewalmost anywhere sensors are to be found, in fact, which pretty much means everywhere these days.

- Max Maxfield
??EE Times

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