Sensors Expo returned to Rosemont Illinois in June and the mood inside the convention center was noticeably more optimistic than last year. Outside, the town was in the grip of a heat wave; but inside it was the technology itself that literally raised both the excitement level and the level of performance for new designs which made things seem, well, hotter. Here are just some of the highlights:

S4AE5A0A0Seiko Epson’s S4E5A0A0 IMU features small size, exceptionally low power, and the ability to withstand shock and vibration, all to meet the demands of industrial environments. The IMU boasts triple gyroscopes with high accuracy and stability of ±300 deg/s and a tri-axis accelerometer with a dynamic range of ±3 G. The module offers excellent angular rate measurement performance and stability, and it consumes just 30 mA when operating at 3.3 V.

Analog Devices’ ADIS16407 iSensor IMU touts 10 degrees of freedom dynamic performance by integrating a tri-axis gyroscope, tri-axis accelerometer, tri-axis magnetometer and a pressure sensor into a single package. Multiple axes of sensing are precision aligned and cross integrated – important for military and first-response applications – where there is a need to discern tracking/location in dynamic environments.

First responders will also benefit from Electric Potential Integrated Circuit (EPIC) sensor technology demonstrated by Plessey Semiconductors. It can measure very tiny changes in electric fields, and, in combination with the human body’s interaction with electric fields in a given space, is able to detect these changes without physical contact. While I saw the technology in action up close at a trade show booth, the company asserts it can even detect changes “through a solid wall.” That opens the possibility of EPIC-enabled devices performing in fire situations, security and in contactless medical instruments as alternatives to ECGs and EMGs.

Texas Instruments also demonstrated an impressive contactless measurement device – the TMP006 single-chip digital IR MEMS temperature sensor with integrated MEMS thermopile sensor, signal conditioning, ADC and local temperature reference. The thermopile is ultra-thin, and the IC’s low profile design makes it suitable for battery powered portable applications. Using this sensor, a smart phone for example, can be held close to an object for contactless temperature measurement.

Another product well-suited to smart phones as well as digital cameras and car navigation systems is Rohm Semiconductor’s high-speed, low voltage resistive touchscreen controller series. The new BU21023/BU21024 controllers enable multi-touch (two-point) operation and intuitive gesture control (pinching, spreading and rotating) – performance typically associated with, but is presented at a lower cost than, capacitive touch systems.

SensorCloudHow about using a smart phone to access or publish sensor data on the cloud? With Microstrain’s SensorCloud platform, any web-connected third party device, sensor or sensor network is supported thanks to the OpenData API, and a mobile web app allows users to push accelerometer, gyro, and magnetometer data from their iPhone or Android smart phone to the network. Core features include virtually unlimited data storage with triple reliability and exceptional visualization and user programmable analysis.

austriamicrosystems’ AS5410 absolute linear 3D Hall encoder IC is highly integrated, and its wealth of features includes absolute position sensing of 3D magnet trajectories over large mechanical travel distances. The company asserts the solution’s output "remains stable even when the device is subject to external stray magnetic fields.”

MiWi DEEmbedded Systems Chicago was co-located at Rosemont, and Microchip Technology was there to announced its expanded MiWi Development Environment (DE) for designing star and mesh wireless networking products. It is comprised of the company’s free, proprietary MiWi P2P, MiWi and MiWi PRO star and mesh networking protocol stacks; the 8-bit Wireless Development Kit (WDK) and ZENA Wireless Adapters (2.4 GHz, 868 MHz and 915 MHz); and the multi-purpose Wireless Development Studio (WDS) with cross-platform support for the Linux, Mac OS and Windows operating systems. “Microchip’s new MiWi DE gives our customers the tools they need to quickly and easily add low-power embedded wireless connectivity to their applications,” said Steve Caldwell, director of Microchip’s Wireless Products Division.  

Sensors Expo returns to Rosemont in 2012. I’ll see you there!