Trends found at Sensors Expo 2016 provide a glimpse into the future of sensors.

Sensors have come a long way from being basic devices that detect and respond to an input in a physical environment to being a key building block in the Internet of Things (IoT) world. They're making tangible progress in integrating more electronics content in a bid to better serve the battery-powered IoT devices.

This has been hugely apparent at the 2016 Sensors Expo & Conference, held in San Jose from the 21st to the 23rd of June.

 

Image courtesy of Stream Technologies.

 

Chipmakers like Analog Devices, Exar, and IDT came to the show with their latest sensing technology offerings, including gas sensors, thermopile sensors, and sensor signal conditioners. During the show, Bosch Sensortec unveiled the BMI160 sensor, which the German firm calls the world’s smallest 9-axis motion sensor targeted at smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearable devices.

 

Bosch’s motion sensor for space-constrained designs such as fitness trackers and smart jewelry. Image courtesy of Bosch.

 

Three Trends: IoT, Integration, and Power

The blog takes a sneak peek at the three most prominent trends in sensing technologies witnessed at the show floor.

 

1. The IoT Hook

The show reinforced the premise that the Internet of Things is, in fact, the internet of sensors and that the fate of sensor offerings is intertwined with the IoT bandwagon. For instance, VDC Research’s presentation “Building Success in the Internet of Things” at the show aimed to address sensor-related challenges in the IoT ecosystem.

Then, there was MEMS & Sensors Industry Group® (MSIG), promoting a wide array of IoT use cases at the show. The trade association promoting MEMS and sensor devices also organized a panel discussion on MEMS and sensors supply chain.

 

2. Rise in Integration

Chipmakers are raising the integration bar by providing complete sensing systems in small packages. Take the case of ams' AS6200 digital temperature sensor comprised of a silicon bandgap sensor, an analog-to- digital converter (ADC), a DSP, and a serial I2C interface.

The single-chip solution for creating a fully functional temperature sensing system comes in a small 1.6mm x 1mm package and its digital measurement outputs are accurate to ±0.4°C. The sensor also offers an alert function that triggers an interrupt at the host MCU when the measured temperature crosses a high or low-temperature threshold set by the user.

 

ams’ AS6200 temperature sensor is targeted at battery-powered devices. Image courtesy of ams.

 

Next, Exar showcased a sensor module solution that enables force touch on any surface: metal, plastic, or glass. It responds to touch from fingers, gloves, or styli and offers greater flexibility than traditional touch-sensing technologies.

 

3. Power-Savvy Sensors

Power has been another dominating theme at the Sensors Expo, and it’s no surprise given that most devices in the IoT arena are battery-powered products. Case in point: ams’ AS6200 temperature sensor can operate over a supply range of 1.8V-3.6V and draws just 1.5µA at a measurement rate of 1 sample. The typical power consumption is 6µA at a measurement rate of 4 samples per second.

On the other hand, in a standby mode, when all of the functions are turned off except the serial interface, the temperature sensor draws merely 0.1µA. The Premstaetten, Austria–based ams is aiming the digital temperature sensor at the industrial process control solutions and IoT applications like cold-chain monitoring.

 

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