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IoT, sensor synergy key to driving the market forward

Posted: 21 Jan 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS Industry Group? MEMS? IoT? sensor fusion? Accelerated Innovation Community?

The likes of accelerometers, pressure sensors and spectrometers are increasingly being found in Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices. Consequently, this scenario builds up the need to set up cohesive protocols to enable a more streamlined access and transfer of information.

In order to advance this concept of sensor fusion, the MEMS Industry Group (MIG) and partners have established a group geared to provide open-source algorithms for sensors, the Accelerated Innovation Community (AIC). MIG executive director Karen Lightman sat down with EE Times at International CES in Las Vegas to discuss the sensor-rich future and how fusion will meet function.

Both MEMS and non-MEMS sensors will be in wearables and IoT devices, stated Lightman. Powering these sensors is a huge issue, so developing intelligent sensor fusion to make each chip "wait its turn" will be of the utmost importance.

Karen Lightman

"Sensor fusion gives more opportunity for non-MEMS sensors to interface with MEMS sensors. It's all about trade-offs and figuring do you use software to manage and create smart data points and reduce power," Lightman said.

The future is multi-chip integration guided by sensor fusion, Lightman added. Different markets and devices each pose unique requirements that make it difficult for the smaller players to get a foot in this emerging market, although they may dominate the wearables segment, she said.

Smartphones, for example, try to pack in the maximum amount of functionality while reducing power consumption. Wearables likely have fewer functional needs but also want low power. At the same time there are more opportunities for bodily energy harvesting by virtue of their use.

"Sensor fusion would need to take into account that [power] requirement, which is actually much more complicated for wearables than smartphones. In the wearable market, there is a lot more opportunity for smaller and medium companies," she said.

Likewise, many existing algorithms for sensor fusion are geared toward mobile phones rather than wearables. Lightman said MIG and AIC are trying to create a "more level playing field" for wearable start-ups and small-to-medium sized companies.

Giving power to wearables

The showfloor at CES featured many sleek, "normal-looking" wearables, a major benchmark for a market that has been burdened by a lack of style. Those sensor-packed devices need to push data directly to the cloud.

"Because of issues with power...there's no way that [much] microprocessor power can be on a wearable," Lightman said. Wearables "need to be a discrete, small, sexy objects that don't end up in your drawer," she said.

Security must be pushed down to the device level. MIG and AIC members are working with the IEEE standards association to establish security standards.

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