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Jul 19 2018

List of The Latest Sensor Technologies in 2018

The annual Sensor Expo (Sensor Expo 2018) was held at China from June 13 to June 15. This event attracted more than 5,000 people to sign up, and more than 250 companies showcased their latest products, compared to the data from last year's Expo. It shows more and more people are highly interested in the increasing sensor innovations though it's still at the early stage of the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Sensor Expo 2018

Figure 1. Sensor Expo 2018

Albert Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs Engineering School at the University of California, San Diego (UCLA), once took responsibility for the Sensor and Actuator Laboratory at UC Berkeley and now leads a program focused on wearable devices.

Pisano said, 'We are not going to do something like Fitbit, but we are interested in bio-compatible devices that can make chemical reactions directly on the skin.'

Pisano described three key application cases that his research team was studying: small, long-lasting combination sensors for premature babies; continuous bio-sensors for the elderly, and sensors that pharmaceutical companies put in human bodies in clinical trials.

These sensors must increase accuracy while reducing cost, size and power consumption from a view of technical challenge. An interesting technique they discovered is to use lactic acid from human sweat as a source of power which is enough to drive ultra-low power radios. However, the development of this technique is still at its early stage and faces big-data challenges when determining how to calibrate some huge chemistry differences.

Size and cost are also important factors in asset tracking, another sensor market which is said to be one of the hottest areas in IoT. Thanks to chip consolidation and lower power networks such as LTE CatM and LoRa, module prices have dropped from $25 to an average of $15. However, the engineer who showed the module said, 'The bad news is that operators have not yet deployed a stable CATM network, and LORA is still working on deploying global roaming.'

In addition, major exhibitors such as ADI, ROHM (Rohm and Haas) and TDK have acquired several smaller sensor suppliers in the past few years and have now completed their Product portfolio.

In the last afternoon, the annual event still attracted many people to gather

Figure 2.  In the last afternoon, the annual event still attracted many people to gather.

Dual radar system improves positioning accuracy

After acquiring Symeo in February this year, ADI launched a radar sensor equipped with 57-64GHz. The Munich-based Symeo,before the acquisition, has been selling the $3,000 system which has only a baseball size with the goal of pinpointing cranes on construction sites.

ADI's radar sensor equipped with 57-64GHz

 Figure 3.  ADI's radar sensor equipped with 57-64GHz

The company's secret is that it supports software execution on board designs using off-the-shelf chips, allowing the two sensors to work together to provide 5mm positioning accuracy of more than 500 meters (m), which has a higher level compared to using a radar alone.

ADI has not yet clearly stated how and when it will begin to introduce Symeo's technology in the future, but what's clear is that the company has high hopes for it from the prominent placement of this technology innovation in its booth.

Using ultrasonic listening detection

STMicroelectronics (ST) demonstrated a MEMS microphone capable of picking up 20Hz to 80KHz signals for deep monitoring of the ultrasonic spectrum to detect faults such as pipeline leaks in buildings. Like the other sensors at the Sensor Expo, this less than $1 component is designed to stream data to a microcontroller (MCU) that performs embedded analysis.

The less than $1 component

Figure 4.  The less than $1 component

The sensor smells products

Aroma Bit, a startup from Tokyo, Japan, is a data company that provides odor analysis services. The company's proprietary gas sensor technology uses 35 different films to detect odors. This technique, called a quartz crystal microbalance, measures the frequency change of a quartz crystal resonator to determine the mass change in each region.

Aroma Bit's proprietary gas sensor technology

 Figure 5 . Aroma Bit's proprietary gas sensor technology

The Aroma Coder 35Q sensor box above can be used as a chamber for isolating odors. The startup has so far produced digital signatures for more than 1,000 odors. For example, the display provides a digital description of the odor difference between Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

Magnetic sensor supports various angles

TDK demonstrates its latest tunneling magnetoresistive (TMR) sensor. The 360° angle sensor provides positioning within 0.2 degrees and is expected to be sampled this fall at a cost of less than $1.

The 360° angle sensor

Figure 6.  The 360° angle sensor

The new TAD2140 sensor can be used in automotive power steering and wiper motors, and also gained smart phone orders for camera anti-shake function last year. The component is packaged in a TO-6 material that integrates six capacitors and a resistor to support the digital interface of the ICsense embedded DSP ( ICsense is a ASIC design company acquired by TDK in March 2017).

Plastic sensors benefit amputated patients

PST Sensors in the UK showcases the latest advances in integrating sensors on flexible plastic substrates. Designed for the use inside the prosthetic, it,  via Bluetooth, monitors and returns the dynamics of temperature, humidity, etc  – factors that may affect the amputation of the amputated patient due to diabetes.

PST Sensor - the latest advances in integrating sensors on flexible plastic substrates

Figure 7 .  PST Sensor - the latest advances in integrating sensors on flexible plastic substrates

The sensor will be used for testing at the National Health Service this fall. PST Sensors is currently developing a second-generation product, and it is expected to launch this sensor that can be woven into socks next year.

Alps : diversified applications in the sensor field

Alps Electric has demonstrated its sensor portfolio (below), which is also an indicator of the diversity of applications in the sensor field. Instead of launching new chips at the event, the company teamed up with gateway vendors and the US cloud computing software vendor Mode to showcase end-to-end IoT solutions by using its modules.

Alps's latest sensor portfolio

Figure 8.  Alps's latest sensor portfolio

Thales chases the IMU mid-market

The US subsidiary of the French Thales Group is trying to use its latest NavChip2 to open up a new middle market for its six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU). The module uses off-the-shelf chips to provide positioning drift accuracy of less than 5 degrees per hour at speeds of up to 16G and 2,000 degrees per second. The goal is to provide $1,300 subsystems for cars, drones and robots at a lower cost.

Thales' NavChip2

Figure 9.  Thales' NavChip2

Detect current at low power

ROHM demonstrates a miniature, non-contact current sensor that uses a magnetic bias to measure current which is through the board. Compared to the resistors, this less than $1 component dramatically reduces heat and power consumption .

The miniature, non-contact current sensor

Figure 10 .  The miniature, non-contact current sensor

The upgrade of touch and security

Microchip Technology showcases an enhanced capacitive touch sensor that can be embedded in its new 32-bit MCUs - the SAM L10 and L11. The company claims that these chips are the first Arm Cortex-M23 MCUs to support Arm TrustZone hardware security technology. The touch sensor inside the MCU can capture four signals in parallel and has better noise and humidity resistance than the company's existing embedded sensors.

Capacitive touch sensor

Figure 11.   Capacitive touch sensor

Book Recommendation

Resistive, Capacitive, Inductive, and Magnetic Sensor Technologies

Resistive, Capacitive, Inductive, and Magnetic Sensor Technologies is a complete and comprehensive overview of RCIM sensing technologies. It takes a unique approach in describing a broad range of sensing technologies and their diverse applications by first reviewing the necessary physics, and then explaining the sensors' intrinsic mechanisms, distinctive designs, materials and manufacturing methods, associated noise types, signal conditioning circuitry, and practical applications. The text not only covers silicon and metallic sensors but also those made of modern and specialized materials such as ceramics, polymers, and organic substances. It provides cutting-edge information useful to students, researchers, scientists, and practicing professionals involved in the design and application of sensor-based products in fields such as biomedical engineering, mechatronics, robotics, aerospace, and beyond.

by Winncy Y. Du

Next Generation Point-of-care Biomedical Sensors Technologies for Cancer Diagnosis 1st ed. 2017 Edition

This book presents recent research on cancer detection methods based on nanobiosensors, which offer ultrasensitive point-of-care diagnosis.

In recent years highly sensitive and robust new cancer diagnosis techniques have been developed for clinical application, and may offer an alternative strategy for cancer diagnosis. As such, this book gathers the latest point-of-care cancer diagnostic methods and protocols based on biomedical sensors, microfluidics, and integrated systems engineering. It also discusses recent developments and diagnostics tests that can be conducted outside the laboratory in remote areas. These technologies include electrochemical sensors, paper-based microfluidics, and other kit-based diagnostic methods that can be adapted to bring cancer detection and diagnostics to more remote settings around the globe.

Overall, the book provides students, researchers, and clinicians alike a comprehensive overview of interdisciplinary approaches to cancer diagnosis.

by Pranjal Chandra and Yen Nee Tan

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