Rambus principal research scientist Patrick Gill recently penned an article for Telecoms Tech about how lensless smart sensors (LSS) can potentially play an important role in building future smart cities. As Gill notes, LSS technology offers a fundamentally new approach to visual sensing by shifting the function of traditional optics to computation, thereby eliminating the need for expensive lenses by replacing them with tiny, inexpensive diffractive gratings.
“Light passing through the diffractive grating is intelligently spread within the sensor to form an unrecognizable, yet information-rich, ‘blob’ that contains the relevant data from the scene. That blob data can then be deciphered analyzed and acted upon,” he explained. “Devices using LSS gain the ability to sense changing patterns in the light in its surroundings and gather relevant data guiding its processes. So one of the best ways to describe LSS is as the ‘eyes of the Internet of Things.’”
Indeed, says Gill, the potential applications for LSS in future smart cities are enormous.
“With LSS, an inanimate building or street becomes more than concrete, glass and furnishings, as it is equipped with intelligent technology capable of understanding the movement, presence and patterns of those present,” he stated. “The resulting data is then analyzed – automatically triggering specific systems and functions, such as security, heating, cooling and lighting. You could better control the flow of people by adjusting traffic lights, or by having street lamps alter their light accordingly depending on how many people are in the area.”
In addition, says Gill, smart cities of the future will actively morph and react the presence of individual residents.
“One primary benefit of LSS is that they provide more privacy than conventional cameras, but offer far more scene detail and understanding than typical motion sensors,” he added. “LSS is ideal for sensing deployments in personal locations such as bathrooms and bedrooms, as there is no risk of invasion of privacy due to the blob. Yet, they are fully capable of understanding that motion seen is a person (versus an animal or other object), and reacting accordingly.”
As we’ve previously discussed on Rambus Press, Rambus LSS technology is capable of detecting and interpreting activity without compromising privacy. As a visual sensor, LSS gathers scene information and can make intelligent decisions about what it ‘sees’; all without a camera lens, and lower risk of hack. LSS’s ‘blob’ output, a series of point-spread functions unique to the design, doesn’t allow for human understanding. However, machines can be taught to understand this blob, and ‘see’ within it.
Put simply, the data about the general activity and number of occupants in the area can be used to intelligently trigger environmental systems, monitor traffic flows and optimize area usage, reducing the environmental impact, as well as operating and maintenance costs.
Interested in learning more about LSS? You can check out our LSS page here and our article archive on the subject here. In addition, the full text of “Lensless sensors and smart cities: Here’s looking at you, looking at me, looking at you” by Patrick Gill can be read on TelecomsTech here.