Tom Kevan of Desktop Engineering recently observed that the Internet of Things (IoT) is pushing measurement analytics to the edge of the network – essentially redefining the sensor’s place in the electromechanical ecosystem.
“No longer a discrete component working in isolation, the sensor interacts with computing and communications components to provide intelligence via two-way communications,” he explained. “[Companies] must adopt a systems engineering perspective, looking beyond individual components and viewing the sensor as part of a larger whole. Using this perspective, engineers must determine how the sensor fits and interacts with the other components in the node.”
In addition, says Kevan, design engineers must also fit more and more functionality and components into smaller spaces. Perhaps not surprisingly, these design demands place a significant premium on miniaturization and packaging technologies.
“The power consumption design criterion for IoT sensor nodes has one rule: Do more with less,” he continued. “This means that the node must be able to sense a physical property, perform analytics and transmit data to the Internet on a significantly reduced power budget, regardless of the power source technology.”
Paul Karazuba, a director of product marketing at Rambus, expressed similar sentiments.
“As our cars, houses and workplaces become increasingly connected within the context of the IoT, sensing needs will only continue to grow,” Karazuba told Rambus Press during a post-CES interview in Sunnyvale. “Indeed, sensors were one of the major themes of the show in Las Vegas – highlighting the continued march of always-on, always-connected sensing.”
Like Kevan, Karazuba says the next generation of smart sensors must be capable of doing more with less.
“Simple-function, sensor-laden endpoints can be expected to become ubiquitous as new layers of the IoT infrastructure go online,” he explained. “These environmentally-aware ‘lite’ endpoints will capture, analyze and transfer data to various devices and the Cloud, but must do so with the right balance of power, performance, price and size.”
According to Karazuba, one possible way of achieving this balance is to replace traditional lensed cameras with diffractive optics-based sensing.
“Rambus scientists pioneered Lensless Smart Sensor (LSS) technology for a new age of ubiquitous connectivity,” said Karazuba. “LSS can reduce the cost and size of image-based sensing as compared to traditional cameras and other commonly-used sensing technologies.”
As Karazuba notes, images captured by Lensless Smart Sensors are unrecognizable to the human eye, although they do contain all scene data (and, of course, all data required for sensing applications).
“LSS technology offers an attractive mix of size, field of view, price and privacy – whether deployed as an occupant detection and counting sensor for smart home and commercial applications, or as an eye tracker in smart glass/augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) systems,” he added. “The value proposition versus alternative solutions continues to be validated through in-depth technical exploration with potential customers in these and other markets. We are looking forward to enhancing LSS technology as we productize it in 2016.”