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Sensor hubs take centre-stage at MWC

Posted: 23 Feb 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? intelligent sensor? sensor hub? wearables?

The Mobile World Congress has for years featured companies vying for attention with new application processors, base bands, screen sizes and cameras. But, as wearable applications and a new generation of smartphones take centre-stage, sensors and sensor hubs are gaining prominence.

In smart world often perceived to be dominated by apps, hardware matters. It matters because it's critical for consumers to run apps they want, as they like, on their own phones. And the accuracy of MEMS sensors determines the quality of data, and sensor hubs are critical in extracting data to be exploited in different usesin apps.

Bosch Sensortec has come to the Mobile World Congress this week to introduce its first generation of sensor hub products with optimised vital sensing features.

STMicroelectronics unveiled just last week the company's latest generation of "highly miniaturised" 6-axis MEMS inertial modules with ultra-low-power design.

The two classic MEMS sensor giants, along with other vendors, are facing an inevitable shift from the "old sensor supplier" business model to that of "intelligent sensor" providers, explained Guillaume Girardin, technology & market analyst, MEMS & SENSORS, at Yole Dveloppement.

MEMS vendors are now competing over "how well their sensors can extract data and how much value they can add to this data" for specific uses, Girardin added.

Bosch Sensortec's new sensor hubs are designed to fuse photoplethysmography (PPG) signals with the onboard inertial MEMS sensors signals for motion compensated heart rate measurement. Stefan Finkbeiner, Bosch Sensortec CEO, told EE Times, "We've partnered with Firstbeat, a vital analytics software company, so that they can take our pre-calculated data, add analytics and offer actionable intelligence to users."

The new sensor hubs, BHV250 and BHV160, integrate three 6-axis inertial MEMS sensors and an accelerometer. BHV160 also includes a gyroscope. These multiple sensors are designed around Bosch Sensortec's home-grown DSP called 'Fuser Core,' which runs Firstbeat's vital analytics software.

Vital sensor hub system setup

Figure 1: Vital sensor hub system setup. (Source: Bosch Sensortec)

These sensor hubs will "open a world of motion-compensated vital monitoring, activity recognition applications and gesture based user interfaces," according to the German company.

Meanwhile, ST's 6-axis MEMS inertial modulesLSM6DSL and LSM6DSMcome with "Innovative power management, enhanced gyroscope design, and energy-efficient data batching," according to ST. They cut power consumption by as much as 50% over ST's current generation devices.

The focus of ST's ultra-low-power design is in strengthening the smartphone's "always-on" role.

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