Next-Gen Smart Sensors Are Tinier and More Accurate Than Ever

one week ago by Biljana Ognenova

In the micronic world of IoT, collecting and interpreting data needs to be fast, accurate, and inexpensive. How do smart sensors meet these requirements, and how are they being implemented in innovative engineering projects?

We‘ve never been content relying solely on our biological capacity to scrutinize our surroundings. This is even more important in the micronic IoT world where we need to collect and interpret data from the environment quickly, precisely, with the lowest cost possible.

There are three key reasons that smart sensors fail to respond to the micronic-level application in digital equipment. They are either too expensive, unstable, inaccurate, or power-inconsistent. They’re also often too bulky to be incorporated into complex systems that adequately support all layers of IoT –  analytics, information, sensor, and communication.

But thanks to advanced technologies and materials, such as nano-optics, low-power wireless, and full-level software support, we now look forward to a wider application of chip-sized sensors that are capable of transmitting and processing various data at a fraction of present costs.    

Chip-Sized Spectrometers with Nano-Optical Fibers

This particular multispectral sensor is a speck-sized (4.5 x 4.4 x 2.5-mm) device placed on a lead-friendly land grid array (LGA) configuration package as seen in some microprocessors, like Microsoft’s Intel. AS7262 and AS7263 multispectral sensors use nano-optical interference filters with precise reflective and low-absorbent capabilities. The nano-optical filters are placed directly on the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) silicon and have more accuracy than conventional interference filters.

Figure courtesy of Bosch.

Multichannel spectrometry enables the detection of multiple wavelengths as quickly as the time required for a single wavelength detection. These combined spectrometers include six channels in the visible spectrum (450 to 640 nm) and six channels in the near-infrared spectrum (610 to 860 nm). A current-controllable LED driver prevents power inconsistencies and enables the same chip as a global shutter and includes light data input.

A smart interface helps with clear-cut calibration, thus making the sensor a savvy, cost-effective device. It can be utilized in industrial applications, such as agriculture and horticulture, food safety, counterfeit currency detection, document authentication, precision colour tuning, and colour identification.

New Generation Smart Hubs for Portable Devices

Bosch solved the “size-at-a-great-cost” problem by designing smart hubs in a single (4.1 x 3.6 x 0.83-mm) Android-supportive packages with always-on sensors.

Figure courtesy of AMS. 

The BHI260 smart hub is the ultimate combination of a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer.  It’s capable of detecting linear motion and gravitational forces, as well as vertical, front-to-back, and side-to-side axis rotational rates. The inertial measurement unit (IMU) is mounted on the Sensortec printed circuit board (PCB) and shuttle board. It includes an M2 master interface (i2c-configured) or a Quad-SPI interface with the ability to connect additional sensors with JB connectors.

The smart hub reduces overall power consumption (1.8V power supply) and expands applicability to mobile devices, eyewear, and AR/VR wearables. This could include areas like 3D orientation, step counting, position tracking, activity recognition, pose and head tracking, and context awareness.

Wireless Multi-Purpose Mini Sensors

Although the microchip size is critical for high-precision handheld devices, certain ecosystems, such as smart living environments and large industries, have additional key factors to consider. This could include the influx of large amounts of private data and sensor mobility. The always-on smart cloud kit by Disruptive Technologies combines wireless touch and proximity sensors, which are the size of a keyboard button and thin as a coin. They are still small enough to be manipulated in spacious ecosystems where the user needs to have control over data privacy and security.

Image courtesy of UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences' flickr

The wireless sensor by Disruptive Technologies has a 50-m indoor range, a 15-year battery lifetime, and the capability to record hundreds of transactions per day. The user data overload is managed with a SIM and Ethernet integrated cloud connector, while a touch-and-pair system allows for an instant connection to a smart device, making it a breeze to manage.

The sensor is multi-purpose and can be stuck exactly where it needs to be, such as difficult-to-reach machinery parts. By increasing data accuracy and making it especially viable for detecting environmental data for smart-living, retail, real estate, food service and safety, and all industry 4.0 solutions, the versatility of these sensors is a viable bargain for makers and career engineers alike.

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