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Fairchild brings 'smart' IMUs to MEMS market

Posted: 17 Jun 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Fairchild Semiconductor? IMU? sensor? MEMS?

"Our acquisitions of Jyve and Xsens gave us the MEMS hardware and software capabilities we needed to build a six-axis inertial measurement unit that is both smart and low-power," said Per Slycke, SVP of motion tracking at Fairchild. "Our IMU is smarter and up to 10-times lower power than our competitors in the quickly growing MEMS markets for consumer, industrial and health applications including sports, fitness, pedestrian navigation, autonomous robots and both virtual- and augmented-reality."

Another "smart" aspect of Fairchild's MEMS technology is that is uses the same die for both the accelerometer and the gyroscope, ending up with all six-axis on the same chip. The second part of its smart MEMS technology was to incorporate a second die it calls an SDI (for strap-down integration, and yes, I am not kidding) which is really a special purpose digital signal processor (DSP), dubbed an AttitudeEngine motion processor that starts the fusion process. By reducing the amount of raw data that needs to be sent to the application processor, the AttitudeEngine eliminates the necessity for high-frequency interrupts and allows the application processor to stay in sleep-mode longer thus extending battery life. Instead of sending the raw-data outputs from the accelerometer, gyroscope and an external magnetometer (you buy from another vendor) the AttitudeEngine only has to send low-bandwidth data to the host application processor, typically at just 1Hz to 64Hz through its 1536 byte first-in-first-out (FIFO) buffer for batch processing. Once the data is on the application processor, Fairchild's Xsens XKF3 algorithms do the rest of the fusion and the motion recognition functions.

Fairchild's stacked ASIC attitude engine

Fairchild's stacked ASIC attitude engine reduces overall power consumption to 0.5?A compared to up to 12?A for competitors sending raw data to the application processor. (Source: Fairchild)

"Our MEMS high-aspect ratio makes its mass bigger, 60?m thick, which results in a better signal-to-noise ratio [SNR] too," Slycke noted. "Our dual emphasis on high accuracy and low-power makes the FIS1100 IMU appropriate for a wide variety of new wearable apps. Most MEMS devices were designed for smartphones, but we're concentrating on wearables as well as smartphones."

Fairchild claims to have the lowest power, lowest noise and best image stabilisation algorithms in the industry. Fairchild also claims the world's first consumer IMU with a pitch and roll accuracy of 3 degrees and yaw accuracy of 5 degrees, but their part has no announced design-ins yet so we will have to wait to see if the proof is in the pudding.

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