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Top 8 Recent MEMS Innovations

While at the MEMS Executive Congress in Scottsdale, Ariz., I encountered some very interesting companies and their creative ideas, which will help bring MEMS to the next level in the (I sort of hate to say it, since this term is mentioned ad nauseum ) Internet of Things. Thanks to the MEMS Industry Group (MIG), we have all the key players in one place a few times a year and in different countries around the world as well. Here are my top 8 innovations from the Scottsdale event. Click on the slideshow image below to see some incredibly creative innovations:

MEMS minimizes concussion injury

The Fit Guard uses an Analog Devices ADXL377 accelerometer, a MAX21000 3-axis angular rate sensor, a TI CC2541 2.4 GHz Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) SoC, and a Seoul Semiconductor SFT825N-S RGB LED. 
I spoke with Anthony Gonzales, executive director of Force Impact Technologies, a former collegiate athlete who had sustained a sports-related concussion. His company's goal is to educate users of the FitGuard.
Clinical studies suggest that sensors located in a mouthguard, as opposed to an accessory on a helmet or a chinstrap, have a higher correlation to the center of gravity of the brain. This is thought to be a result of the mouthguard's placement in relation to the rear molars, which are attached to the base of the skull.
(Image: Force Impact Technologies)

The Fit Guard uses an Analog Devices ADXL377 accelerometer, a MAX21000 3-axis angular rate sensor, a TI CC2541 2.4 GHz Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) SoC, and a Seoul Semiconductor SFT825N-S RGB LED.

I spoke with Anthony Gonzales, executive director of Force Impact Technologies, a former collegiate athlete who had sustained a sports-related concussion. His company’s goal is to educate users of the FitGuard.

Clinical studies suggest that sensors located in a mouthguard, as opposed to an accessory on a helmet or a chinstrap, have a higher correlation to the center of gravity of the brain. This is thought to be a result of the mouthguard's placement in relation to the rear molars, which are attached to the base of the skull.

(Image: Force Impact Technologies)

18 comments on “Top 8 Recent MEMS Innovations

  1. bjcoppa
    November 24, 2014

    This technology is in an early phase of development. The company is seeking startup funding. In general, safety regulations in sports have increased dramatically the last several years and sensors in helments are critical for preventing concussion related trauma and other related health problems. FitGuard may have an easier time breaking in its products at the college level.

  2. geek
    November 24, 2014

    @analoging: I think theoretically this seems like a really good innovation. The design does seem to fulfill the purpose it was meant to achieve. What would be interesting would be how it would actually work. In other terms, whether it would be able to save more lives when used commercially or not is the critical factor.

  3. Scott Elder
    November 24, 2014

    Here is a startup company that is attacking the problem of providing tactical grade inertial sensors for a consumer grade cost.  They use a substantially larger proof mass (1000x) to achieve lower noise while still maintaing a small integrated form factor.  

    http://www.motionengineinc.com/l/inertial_sensors

    So there appears to still be innovation going on in the baseline R&D area rather than solely higher level applications.

  4. geek
    November 24, 2014

    @Steve: Can you explain a bit more about how the Vesper's piezoelectric Microphone works? In other words, how do the moving plates help in reducing the SNR? Is there any other major enhancement in the design?

  5. geek
    November 24, 2014

    @Scott: In terms of reliability, will these tactical grade ones be a match for industrial applications? I understand the cost has been lowered but has that impacted reliability in some ways?

  6. Scott Elder
    November 24, 2014

    Well I guess that's a question for the technical leadership at ME, but their website details a package-less solution with what appears to be bonded wafers and no wirebonds.  So from that perspective it must be more reliable than solutions with those additional elements which do have reliability impacts.

    I know the technical guru, so I'll ping him and let him fill in the details.

    http://www.motionengineinc.com/l/3ds_platforms 

  7. Steve Taranovich
    November 24, 2014

    @tzubair—In most standard microphone designs, the diaphragm is solid and sound air pressure gets compressed against it to some extent at higher levels of amplitude. This causes distortion thereby degrading Signal-to-noise ratio since the signal gets distorted or clipped in many cases of higher pressure sound levels from one's voice.

     

    Vesper's design allows air to pass freely through it while still monitoring the air pressure changes —essentially sound—with far less distortion

  8. Myled
    November 25, 2014

    ” I think theoretically this seems like a really good innovation. The design does seem to fulfill the purpose it was meant to achieve. What would be interesting would be how it would actually work. In other terms, whether it would be able to save more lives when used commercially or not is the critical factor.”

    Tzubair, I think still it's in development stages and hence there won't be any practical use cases. Only after development, testing can be carry forward with practical use cases.

  9. samicksha
    November 26, 2014

    I find this as perfect platform to discuss and learn more about MEMS gyroscopes, how confortable you guys find structural approach of same to meet today automobile challenges.

  10. geek
    November 29, 2014

    “I think still it's in development stages and hence there won't be any practical use cases. Only after development, testing can be carry forward with practical use cases”

    @myanalog: On the contrary, I think the practical use case should be evaluated in the initial prototype and if only the usability exists, it should be turned into a commercial product. It doesn't make sense to reach the commercial stage and then realize that the product is not ready to be used for what it was designed for.

  11. SunitaT
    November 30, 2014

    @Steve, thanks for the post. I would like to know more about humidity fluctuations ? What does it depend on and how reliable is this parameter ?

  12. SunitaT
    November 30, 2014

    This causes distortion thereby degrading Signal-to-noise ratio since the signal gets distorted or clipped in many cases of higher pressure sound levels from one's voice.

    @steve, how much improvements in SNR do we get in Vesper's microphone compared to the older systems.

  13. SunitaT
    November 30, 2014

    I find this as perfect platform to discuss and learn more about MEMS gyroscopes, how confortable you guys find structural approach of same to meet today automobile challenges.

    @samicksha, I agree with you. I am sure we will see move and more MEMS devices will be used in automobile industry. As you suggested it would be really exciting to learn more about MEMS basics.

  14. Steve Taranovich
    November 30, 2014

    @SunitaT0–At the top performance level, very high SNR microphones feature a signal-to-noise ratio level of greater than, or equal to, 64 dB—so says Marwan Boustany, senior analyst, MEMS & Sensors, IHS

  15. Steve Taranovich
    November 30, 2014

    @SunitaT0—Electret condenser microphones can be affected by moisture—even breathing too closely to one without a proper breath shield—because it can change or “short out” the capacitive effect . 

  16. samicksha
    November 30, 2014

    I agree your point @Steve, infacts couple of days back i was reading some news column wherein they wrote about Apple Watch which contains MEMS.

  17. Myled
    December 1, 2014

    “I find this as perfect platform to discuss and learn more about MEMS gyroscopes, how confortable you guys find structural approach of same to meet today automobile challenges.”

    Samiksha, we are using gyroscope for auto navigation in flights and launch vehicles. You meant the same?

  18. Myled
    December 1, 2014

    “On the contrary, I think the practical use case should be evaluated in the initial prototype and if only the usability exists, it should be turned into a commercial product. It doesn't make sense to reach the commercial stage and then realize that the product is not ready to be used for what it was designed for.”

    Tzubair, that's possible only with the improvement of existing models. For an ever new model, we can plan only some use cases and many new use cases are evolving during the testing phases.

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