ORLANDO, Fla. — All things MEMS, especially how they provide greater functionality in smaller, more power-efficient wearable Internet of Things (IoT) devices, was the overall theme of the “Sensors and MEMS Technology” track at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2015, June 6-8, Las Vegas) sponsored by the MEMS Industry Group (MIG, Pittsburgh).
“MEMS/sensors are the frontline ‘edge’ device collecting the raw data from the environment, such as pressure and temperature, or human body data, such as number of steps taken and heart rate,” Stephen Whalley, chief strategy officer at MIG told EE Times. “In wearable devices and IoT applications such as smart homes, buildings, cities and vehicles, they usually form a sensing cluster around the application processor, feeding it with every sensory change taking place. That data is then processed using algorithms to make sense of it so that humans or machines can react appropriately.”
Wearable strategies are all over the map, said Steve Holmes, vice president of the New Devices Group and general manager of the Smart Device Innovation Group at Intel, in the opening keynote “Make it Wearable.”
One of the biggest problems with keeping them powered, because they are usually always-on and thus need to constantly stay charged to be useful. Besides the technical side, according to Holmes three things define wearables in 2015: “intimacy, immediacy and persistence.”
Intimacy, he said, means you keep them close to you, but discretely, such as in the Synapse Dress, which debuted at the 2014 Intel Development Forum, but which was created by the Dutch fashion-tech designer, Anouk Wipprecht, in collaboration with Italian architect Niccolo Casas who specializes in 3-D printing. The dress sensed the electrical impulses it wearer changing its brightness in response to whether the wearer is tense or relaxed.
During the day long MEMS conference at CES, the tracks concentrated on powering wearable included tracks on “Transforming Wearables through Bluetooth Smart,” “Beyond Audio with Biometric Earbuds,” “Wearables: A Very Real Market Opportunity,” “MEMS and Sensors for a Smart IoT,” “Waiting for the Holy Grail — Clinically Accurate, Contextual, and Continuous Data,” and “The Dynamic Duo: Wearables and People Analytics.”
The final panel, moderated by Whalley, “Getting to Low Power and Maximum Functionality through Sensor Fusion” focused on how consumers are demanding greater functionality in smaller, more power-efficient wearables. The panel members discussed many diverse approaches to meet this challenge including more sophisticated hardware/software sensor fusion, integrating smarter ‘sensor hubs’ and how can original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and embedded systems integrators (ESIs) can take full advantage of MEMS and other sensors in their wearable devices.
The panelists included Behrooz Abdi, CEO at InvenSense, Inc., Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO and general manager of Bosch Sensortec, Becky Oh, CEO of PNI Sensor, Timothy Saxe, CTO of QuickLogic, and Benedetto Vigna, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Analog, MEMS & Sensors Group at STMicroelectronics.
The first question inquired as what the current OEM demands for battery life are for battery powered wearable devices, to which Oh said that today smart watches need to extend their current lifetimes of up to 8 hours to at least 24 hours.
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“A day on a smart watch a day's battery life would be great — but we don’t have that yet,” said Oh.
Benedetto added that it depends on the final application, but agreed that power consumption is limiting the functionality of smartwatches. Today FitBIt has a product whose charge lasts more than one day, which is one reason they are market leader with “70% market share in the fourth quarter of 2014”.
To read more of this external content and view a slidehow of devices shown in the Sensors and MEMS Technology track at CES go to “MEMS that wearables/IoT need.“