Highlights from Sensors Expo 2013
How was Sensors Expo 2013 for Venture? In a nutshell: Intense. From the moment the doors opened, both Chase and I were deep in non-stop conversations with folks that wanted to know more about what RFOS could do. As the show was packing up and booths were being dismantled, we were still in deep conversations! Here are some of the highlights:
Topics at the Venture Table
Underground wireless: a perennial topic, but even more frequent this year than before: can we get wireless through rock, into mines, through thick concrete, through metal, through water and – the favorite: 5,000 plus feet up an oil well. Well, it turns out that the answer is closer to “yes” than ever before with the recent developments in low frequency EM, magnetic and near field communications and poised to make significant impacts. Venture is actively exploring these technical areas, so watch this space and contact us if you’d like to learn more.
Batteries vs. Energy Harvesting: always a contentious topic and still one of uncertainty. As the capability of harvesting technologies improve and the costs drop, the allure is seductive. However, batteries get cheaper and better too, and our ability to design the power consumption out of applications continues to keep pace. At the end of the day: “if the battery lasts five (or 10, or 15) years and costs 25 (or 50, or 70) cents, then that’s good enough” still wins for most applications. However, there remain particular applications where energy harvesting is the key enabler and we continue to stay abreast of latest developments, working with key partners in vibration and high efficiency, low light PV.
Everything IP vs. dedicated end point networks: will everything we want to sense have an IP address and connect directly to the net? IPSO would like to think so. However, the overhead (power, hardware cost) of this approach continues to lean heavily in the direction of dedicated end point wireless networks for most applications.
Standards vs. Proprietary 802.15.4 networks? – The promise of plug and play interoperability and low development costs keep the “standards” like Zigbee, Z-Wave and others in play. But, the plain fact is that companies and whole industries continue to invest in proprietary solutions which are optimized for their needs and result in lower cost, lower power and application optimized solutions – reference design software like MiWi or Simpliciti, gets many folks started, but many eventually come around to a custom or semi-custom approach like RFOS. Our recent “Five Myths of Zigbee” article gained quite a number of agreeing nods and empathetic quips!
Location awareness and auto-provisioning: our work in this area, i.e. provisioning and re-provisioning an ad-hoc network based upon reliable inter-radio range calculations (using carrier phase analysis of the data radios themselves) raised a fair bit of attention. There are numerous examples of applications where this solves some real world problems: in transportation, mining, warehousing and distribution, refueling, farming and animal husbandry. In fact, imagination seems to be the limit.
Elsewhere around the show
We were kept so busy, that our chances to walk the floor were limited. However, here are some of our picks as well as those from others:
The advances in multi-axis motion tracking devices have special interest for us as they dovetail nicely with RF ranging capabilities. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the prices tumble and performance has increased (largely driven by consumer goods like cameras, phones, etc.). We are excited by the arrival of integrated (system in package) 9 axis devices like those from Invensense (http://www.invensense.com/mems/gyro/mpu9150.html) and the ultra low power, low cost pseudo 9 axis device rom Kionix (http://www.kionix.com/6-axis-accelerometer-magnetometer/kmx61g)
For visual impact, it was hard to beat the folks from YEI Technology and their full body user interface: http://youtu.be/UkkvPL0AGQ4, though we also like a couple of balancing robots around the show. And if you really, really don’t want to get lost and you can afford it, Vectornav’s integrated GPS / inertial navigation device might help: http://www.vectornav.com/products/vn200-rug
Cymbet’s booth had a number of interesting applications for their solid state battery technology, including their own fully integrated Real Time Clocks running 5 to 20 days on their internal charge with very low self-discharge and correspondingly long shelf life (http://www.cymbet.com/products/enerchip-real-time-clocks.php)
The Best of show awards includes some other interesting take-aways, including some really impressive miniature magnetic switches: http://www.sensorsmag.com/sensors-mag/winners-2013-best-sensors-expo-awards-11555
And of course, we didn’t get close to being able to listen to the conference talks, but you can find a good summary here: http://www.evaluationengineering.com/blogs/sensors-track-focused-on-measurement-and-detection.php
If you went to the show, we hope you found it interesting. If you didn’t get to Chicago, we hope you find this quick summary – from Venture’s perspective – useful.