MEMS’ latest battleground: Hardware-agnostic sensor fusion?: Page 2 of 3

March 28, 2012 // By Junko Yoshida, EE Times
As more and more MEMS sensors are showing up in mobile devices, the focus of MEMS design has begun shifting from discrete MEMS components to MEMS sensor data integration. How raw data from multiple sensors is “fused” and “interpreted” makes a noticeable difference in a system’s power consumption and apps performance, according to Ian Chen, executive vice president, Sensor Platforms, Inc., a San Jose, California-based start-up.

Then, there is the issue of reliability. Although not broadly advertised, some smart phones’ compass calibration can be off by 90 degrees, according to Chen. “All sensors require frequent calibration to maintain their data quality,” he noted. Sensor Platforms’ FreeMotion Library is built on an architecture that supports reliable sampling, and ongoing cross-sensor calibration to assure reliable sensor information – both for application developers and end users, the company said.

In sum, just designing a number of MEMS sensors into one’s system is hardly enough to improve a system’s power consumption, flexibility in system designs, sensor data or reliability and apps’ performance.

Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico Research, noted: “Now with all this data, how do the system designers fully utilize it? We may be just scratching the surface.” Further, he acknowledged, “The industry is at an early stage. System designers, many new to MEMS, need software development tools.”

The need for SDK is not limited to systems designers. It extends to apps developers, who are trying to leverage motion data – collected by sensors in a mobile device – in their new apps.

Chen said Sensor Platforms is rolling out the FreeMotion library’s API, so the data produced by its sensor calibration and sensor fusion provides apps developers robust data with better accuracy. Further, Chen said that “apps need information and context about the user, not just the user’s location or changes in his motion or direction.” The FreeMotion software development kit offers “a foundation to extend the type of information that applications can gain from sensor data,” according to Sensor Platforms.

Competitive landscape

Sensor Platforms’ key competitors are likely to be MEMS sensor component suppliers, who are developing their own sensor fusion software.

Earlier this year, Freescale Semiconductor, for example, introduced its own sensor fusion algorithms called Xtrinsic for electronic compass. Electronic compass applications combine magnetometer-provided headings with corrections from inertial sensors that compensate for

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