Tag: sensors

Super sensitive magnetic sensor invented

MagnetScientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said they have developed a hybrid sensor more sensitive than sensors currently available.

The scientists said that the invention will lead to the development of smaller and cheaper censors for electronics, comms, automotive and biotechnology applications.

The hybrid sensor developed by the scientists may meet the needs of high sensitivity to low and high magnetic fields, tunability and small resistance variations due to temperature.

The team claims that the sensor, which is made of graphene and boron nitride is 200 times more sensitive than commercially available sensors today.

Existing sensors are commonly made of silicon and indium antimonide, but these new sensors have an eight fold gain over previously reported laboratory results.

The magnetoresistance sensor industry is expected to be worth nearly $3 billion by the year 2020. One advantage over existing sensors is that there won’t be a need for silicon wafers or temperature corretion circuity, with production cost for graphene based sensors much lower.

Toshiba sells sensor unit to Sony

ToshibaToshiba has decided to sell its image sensor business to Sony as part of a cunning plan to restructure in the wake of its $1.3 billion accounting scandal.

The image sensor manufacturing plant in Oita, southern Japan will go to Sony by the end of the fiscal year through March. Tosh is giving up on the sensor business completely.

Sony will take on the sensor business’ 1,100 workers. The deal was worth around $166.15 million.

Toshiba also said it will withdraw from the white light-emitting diode (LED) business, part of its semiconductor division.

The moves amount to the first restructuring steps Toshiba has announced since it said earlier this year that it had overstated earnings in a wide range of businesses including chips, television sets and personal computers over seven years.

Sony gets to solidify its already dominant position in the industry. It already controls about 40 percent of the market for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors.

IBM develops app to help blind navigate better

IBM logoCarnegie Mellon University (CMU) and IBM have teamed up to create smartphone apps that will give blind people information about their surroundings.

The pilot app, called Navcog uses existing sensors and other technologies to help people on the CMU campus move around by “whispering” information through earbuds or by creating vibrations.

CMU has Bluetooth beacons along walkways and also smartphone sensors within campus buildings.

IBM will soon put the app at no charge on the App Store.

Big Blue said it has made cognitive assistance for developers available on the cloud through IBM Bluemix, with the open toolkit made up of an app for navigation, a map editing tool, and localisation algorithms.

Future developments will include localisation technology integrating data from different sensors and include facial recognition software too.

Sensor sales reveal smartphone trends

ChinaSamsung is being squeezed by competition from Apple at the high end and competition from Chinese manufacturers at the low end.

That’s the conclusion of IHS Technology. The market research company has assessed sales of smartphone sensors and thinks that although Samsung and Apple continue to be the dominant consumers of sensors for smartphones, they are both set for declines between now and 2019.

Samsung currently has a market share of 23 percent but that will fall to 15 percent by 2019. Meanwhile Apple currently takes 47 percent of smartphone sensors but that will fall to 34 percent over the next four years.

Apple’s share will fall because of growth of the overall smartphone market, but Samsung, although affected by the same phenomenon, faces stiff competition from Xiaomi and other Chinese hardware manufacturers.

The share from the Chinese manufacturers currently stands at 20 percent but that share will grow to 38 percent in 2019, IHS believes.

Marwan Boustany, a senior analyst at IHS said the Chinese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will try any new technology that lets them compete with the better known brand names.

People can hack into smart watches

WatchScientists at the University of Illinois said they’ve conducted an experiment which shows that – like all computing devices – hackers can break into smart watches.

The researchers used an app they built on a Samsung Gear Live smart watch sand said they could guess what a user was typing because of data “leaks” originating from the motion sensors built into the device.

They believe that the project shows that smart watches have security implications because an app that purported to be, for example, a pedometer could harvest data from emails, search queries and documents.

Romit Roy Choudhury, associate professor of electrical and computing engineering at Illinois said these devices give invaluable insightsinto human health but “also make way for deeper violation into human privacy”.

The app Illinois University made uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to track micro motion of keystrokes. The scientists then ran the data they’d harvested using a keystroke detection module which can measure the net 2D displacement of the watch as a person types.

One way to prevent this type of security breach is for designers to reduce the sample rate of sensors from the current 200 Hertz to below 15, making it very difficult to track the movement of the wrists.

Sony to invest $4 billion getting sensitive

DawsonCryingSony thinks it might be able to invest its way out of trouble by investing $4 billion from new shares and bonds into image sensors.

The move is seen as Sony attempting to re-invent itself out of the consumer goods market which TVs that dragged it into losses.

It is the first new share issue in 26 years, and will raise $2.62 billion from a public stock offering. It will raise the rest from a bond issue to fund a boost in sensor output capacity at its plants in Japan.

The deal is worth close to a tenth of its current market value, and provides the clearest signal yet that Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai is prioritising the sensor business to anchor Sony’s turnaround.

The image sensors, a key high-tech component in digital cameras and smartphones, have emerged as one of Sony’s strongest lines alongside its PlayStation videogames unit, helping the company recover from a long slide in TV and smartphone sales.

Sony is only just emerging from decline making loses last year. It expects a profit of 140 billion yen in the current year.

The move caught investors by surprise on Tuesday, with fears the new stock will dilute per-share earnings sending the stock 8.3 percent lower at the close. Yet the company’s market value has climbed in step with its recent recovery progress, and has more than doubled since June 2014 to close to $35 billion.

Developing sensors requires a consistently heavy drain on capital expenditure with Sony’s balance sheet already stretched as it restructures, selling or splitting off loss-making operations and slashing jobs.

Sony had previously mentioned smaller-scale commitments to expand in sensors so the move was not that surprising.

Sony expects sensor boom

sonic-boomThe maker of the Walkman, Sony, expects sales of its image sensors to increase by $804 million to around $4.41 billion in the current business year until  next March because of strong demand from Apple and other high-end smartphone makers.

Tomoyuki Suzuki, head of the Sony’s device solutions business including sensors, also said the company was aiming for a diverse client base, showing he was wary of depending too much on Apple, widely seen as its biggest customer for sensors.

Sensors have emerged as one of Sony’s strongest products in the past few years as its TV and mobile operations struggle. While it has fallen far behind Apple and Samsung Electronics in the smartphone race, the company’s sensors are used in its rivals’ newer handsets.

Suzuki told Reuters  in an interview that when it comes to semiconductors, if you can’t make use of capacity you quickly end up with a loss.

“So if you want to avoid that volatility the important thing is to have a good balance with several customers,” he said.

Building to boost internet of things market

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford - pic Mike MageeBy 2020 over eight million building management systems (BMS) will be integrated with internet of things applications or services. But vendors of commercial BMSs need to be aware of both threats and promises the technology poses.

That’s according to a report from ABI Research, which said there are opportunities for vendors to integrate traditional monolithic systems to a bigger and integrated sensing and control network.

And it appeals for open BMS connectivity to third party applications, which will mean the management systems can be aware of external events including variable energy pricing, weather conditions, space allocation and building occupancy.

Dan Shey, practice director at ABI Research, said it is applications and services that will deliver most of the value from internet of things integrated BMSs of the future.

Nevertheless, there’s going to be a more complicated and cometitive environment, with competition coming from SaaS energy management vendors, and even PC energy managers in the future.

Sony to boost imaging sensor business

sonySony is to write a cheque for $376 million to boost output of imaging sensors.

The move is to focus on a business that has become one of its strongest as its TV and mobile operations go belly up.

Sony said it plans to expand production capacity for image sensors to 87,000 wafers per month by the end of September 2016 to meet growing demand from smartphone makers, compared with current levels of around 60,000 wafers per month.

This comes on top of an earlier announcement that the company wants to boost output capacity at its three plants in Japan to 80,000 wafers per month by the end of June 2016.

Sony is targeting a 25-fold increase in operating profit within three years, by focusing its spending on profitable areas such as sensors and videogames while retreating from commoditised products such as TVs.

The outfit appears to be coming out of the hell which it has been in for several years and is starting to strengthen again — mostly by focusing on aspects of its business in which it has not made a name for itself.


MEMS market to reach $6 billion by 2016

The market for MEMS, or micro electro mechanical systems, is expected to race past the $6 billion mark as early as 2016, according to a report.

Juniper Research, which wrote the report, says that inertial sensor adoption – including accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers – have all found their place in the market thanks to advanced gaming and navigation applications. Because of the demand, they have become necessary in all smartphones and tablets.

The development of MEMS sensors will eventually be an “important differentiator” for mobile manufacturers in the future, because the build and quality of the devices will enable different capabilities and functions.

Juniper divides MEMS into three different categories in its report, those already deployed, like accelerometers and gyroscopes, MEMS which are currently being deployed, like displays, RF devices, pressure sensors and microphones, and future applications like joysticks, temperature sensors, speakers and pico projectors.

Author Nitin Bhas said that there are “lots of additional functionalities that smartphones and tablets will pick up over time and those capabilities have already started to appear, such as stabilisation control”.

Vendors will begin using high quality audio input and integrating multiple microphones, which should push the number of MEMS microphones in mobile devices to reach past the 2 billion mark in 2016.

Juniper also says that manufacturers have been ramping their production in RF MEMS, which signifies that they will soon be found in “most products” designed for use in the wireless market.

TechEye will be heading to MEMS Executive Congress Europe this March to cover the opportunities in the industry.