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By Maria Vetrano

As group vice president of the Analog & MEMS Group and general manager of the MEMS Sensor division at STMicroelectronics, Andrea Onetti brings nearly three decades of experience in MEMS, sensors and audio systems to his leadership role at one of the world’s most successful electronics and semiconductor manufacturers. During his keynote at FLEX and MEMS & Sensors Technical Congress 2019, February 18-21 in Monterey, Calif., Onetti will address the criticality of sensor accuracy in advancing automotive, industrial and consumer applications. SEMI’s Maria Vetrano spoke with Onetti recently to give FLEX/MSTC attendees a preview of his presentation.

SEMI: What are some promising advancements in sensors for autonomous cars?

Onetti: The avionics industry is already successfully applying sensors for autonomous operationl. Inertial navigation systems (INS) support the operation of planes during flight, both after takeoff and before landing. Unfortunately, the technology in these navigation systems is expensive and not scalable, and they are hampered by reliability limitations in an automotive environment.

Following the steady progress that we have made with MEMS inertial sensors in consumer applications, we are on the cusp of realizing greater accuracy in temperature and time – finally delivering the performance required for autonomous driving. Because we can scale in production – we’re now manufacturing more than a billion units a year – we can select the cream of this production crop for adoption in cars. Consequently, we should see Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving for consumers very soon.

SEMI: How are companies using sensors to monitor and track their assets in industrial applications?

Onetti: Predictive maintenance and asset tracking are the two main verticals in Smart Industry. The adoption of multiple sensors for condition monitoring is helping to detect the faulty operation of equipment and to detect early signs of issues that are otherwise difficult to capture.

Ultrasonic microphones can detect leaks in a pipe at an early stage, accelerometers with high bandwidth can act as micrometers, and accurate temperature sensors can catch overheating.

Similarly, in asset tracking, we use temperature monitoring in combination with inertial sensors to detect problems during the transport of goods. Shock sensors with extremely high full scale (up to 8000g) can tell whether a lightweight envelop has been dropped. Pressure sensors can switch off a radio system when a cargo plane takes off and can mute smart trackers in compliance with flight regulations. We really can do almost anything!

A full slate of ST sensors and microcontroller units (MCUs) enable WEG’s small but powerful motor sensor, which listens to a motor, feels its pain, and shares that information with engineers, operators and others to diagnose problems before they happen. Image courtesy of STMicroelectronics.

High-accuracy motion, environmental and proximity sensors are crucial to VR/AR. Image courtesy of STMicroelectronics.

SEMI: How will sensors advance user experiences in consumer electronics, such as VR/AR systems?

Onetti: Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are great examples of promising consumer technologies that will become pervasive as performance of inertial sensors improves. First, we need super accuracy in time and temperature to provide the right experience to users. To achieve this level of accuracy, we need a major step forward in performance, and that includes power consumption and miniaturization. Fortunately, we are constantly making progress in the high-accuracy motion, environmental and proximity sensors that are critical to these systems. While the scale is vastly different between VR/AR and automotive, the requirements for AR/VR systems are pretty similar to those that will enable autonomous cars.

A growing variety of sensors (environmental, microphone, proximity, motion) – combined with a sensor hub in an MCU – are central to VR controllers (above) and VR head mounted displays (below). Images courtesy of STMicroelectronics.

SEMI: We don’t hear much about the criticality of higher accuracy in sensors. Why is improving accuracy in sensors especially important – and what role do calibration routines play in achieving higher accuracy?

Onetti: A sensor is more than just the performance of the relevant function. It is also the intrinsic accuracy that it brings. This accuracy is tuned by calibration, which is typically an expensive process done at the end of product manufacturing or – better still – during earlier stages of manufacturing.

Today more applications require sensors with higher accuracy, which necessitates investing more time in calibration, leading to higher cost.

MEMS technology can help by offering solutions with intrinsic higher accuracy, which reduces the cost of calibration for product manufacturers. This naturally delivers major benefits to OEMs and, ultimately, their customers.

SEMI: What would you like FLEX and MSTC attendees to take away from your presentation?

Onetti: As attendees explore the wide variety of available sensor solutions for their end products, I would ask them to prioritize the role of accuracy in sensor selection – because improved accuracy means higher quality data, and higher quality data means better decisions with reduced need for data processing.

While designers understand the role of calibration routines in qualifying individual components for specific applications, it is the continuous evolution of MEMS technology that offers the best possibility of breakthrough reductions in time and cost of these calibration routines. This makes MEMS sensors more attractive and affordable than similar sensor components based on different technologies.

Source: SEMI Blog

By Heidi Hoffman, senior director of technology community marketing, SEMI

This year’s MEMS & Sensors Technical Congress(MSTC), February 19-20, 2019, features a deep dive into the changing automotive sensor landscape, a look at emerging MEMS technologies, and an exploration of integration standards. The more technically focused of SEMI’s annual MEMS events, MSTC returns to Monterey, California, in conjunction with FLEX, the conference that highlights new form factors enabled by advances in flexible, printed and hybrid electronics.

What’s next for automotive sensors

Leading technologists from across the automotive sensor value chain will share their views on emerging opportunities and challenges in that rapidly evolving market. Ford Motor Co. Executive Technical Director, Palo Alto Research Center, Dragos Maciuca will give an update on the changing demands of the market in his keynote. Another keynoter, ON SemiconductorCTO Hans Stork will focus on recent developments in sensors and integration technology, and the remaining challenges to integrate these complex data streams into cost-effective intelligent sensor fusion.

PNI Sensor President & CEO Becky Oh will report on advancements in smart parking sensor solutions and their deployment in smart cities. VerizonProduct Manager Nancy Ranxing Li will introduce Verizon’s data-driven approach to reduce injury and death in traffic accidents. Featuring an integrated sensor system that detects and analyzes conflicts among pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists, the Verizon system identifies potentially dangerous situations at intersections. Cities can use the data to make changes to improve safety while 5G-enabled self-driving cars can use the data to prevent accidents. Fabu Head of Marketing Angela Suen will discuss Fabu’s experience in applying machine learning to sensor integration data. Analog Devices, GM, Inertial Sensors, Tony Zarola will address nuances of autonomous transportation, including maintaining navigation assistance when vehicle sensors “go blind” as well as vehicle health-monitoring.

Emerging MEMS technologies

Other sessions feature major MEMS makers and researchers sharing innovations on a wide range of technology challenges: from reducing power consumption and increasing intelligence in sensors to MEMS motors, analog in-memory computing, and human/electronics interfaces.

UC Berkeley Professor Kristofer Pister will introduce the next generation of low-power wireless sensor networks, which now featuring self-contained power, MEMS sensors, microwatt computation and communication hardware. Now being demonstrated at UC Berkeley, the ultra-high-reliability devices offer the 10ms latency suitable for factory automation. Pister will also discuss ultra-efficient MEMS motors for wirelessly controlled haptics as well as micro robots for precision manipulation.

Syntiant Corp. VP of Product Mallik Moturi will report on the company’s neural decision processors, which use analog in-memory computing for ultra-low-power parallel processing. The company says that the devices are being designed into multiple kinds of edge devices, particularly for always-on speaker identification and key-word spotting for under 40µW—reportedly 50-100X more efficient than a GPU.

STMicroelectronic sSenior Manager, MEMS, Jay Esfandyari will discuss how the integration of logic into MEMS inertial measurement units (IMUs) enables independently programmable gesture recognition algorithms on the IMU – enabling a range of motion-detection gestures at a fraction of the power of running the algorithms on an external microcontroller. InvenSense CTO Peter Hartwell will share his company’s vision of the future in which sensors bridge the real and virtual worlds. Arm Senior Product Manager Tim Menasveta will explore Arm’s work in extending machine learning to resource-constrained embedded devices.

Georgia Tech Research Fellow Yun-Soung Kim will present a new wireless skin-like electronics platform for persistent human-machine interfaces. The platform — SKINTRONICS — combines thin-film processes, soft material engineering and miniature chip components to adapt electronics that conform to the soft, curvilinear and dynamic human body. Georgia Tech researchers have demonstrated using SKINTRONICS-enabled wireless human-machine interfaces to send electrical signals from the human body to control remotely a car and a wheelchair.

In the area of improving manufacturing technology and standards, Siemens/Mentor GM Greg Lebsackwill discuss the challenges and opportunities of co-design of MEMS and ICs for a more robust system and faster time to market. Lebsack will look at the design flow and the ecosystem of mixed-signal design tools and IP blocks for innovative system solutions for the IoT. NIST Project Leader Michael Gaitan will discuss improved test protocols for tri-axis MEMS accelerometers that better determine cross-axis sensitivities and are less sensitive to misalignment of devices on the test equipment, promoting more accurate testing in laboratory comparisons. Intel Platform Manager Ken Foust will discuss the impact and future of the MIPI I3C standard — a two-wire interface developed to address many key pain-points universally felt by system developers struggling to integrate broad sensor capability into their platforms.

MSTC is organized by MEMS & Sensors Industry Group, SEMI technology community.


Flexible and printed electronics innovations and autonomous mobility sensors will take center stage as more than 700 attendees gather for 120 market and technical presentations, 70 exhibits and four short courses at the co-located FLEX 2019 and MEMS & Sensors Technical Congress (MSTC) in Monterey, California, February 18-21, 2019. Click here to register for both events.

Themed Electronics Out of the Box, FLEX 2019, the Flexible & Printed Electronics Conference and Exhibition, will highlight new form factors enabled by advances in flexible, printed and hybrid electronics. MSTC, themed Sensor Systems Enabling Autonomous Mobility, will showcase sensor innovations and emerging applications. The events cover a broad span of new applications and innovation drivers in key markets such as SMART Medtech, SMART Transportation and Internet of Things (IoT).

FLEX and MSTC will unite in the exhibition, opening keynotes, panel discussion, networking events and short courses, with the events featuring separate technical sessions. Attendees will connect with a broad group of subject matter experts and industry innovators.

FLEX 2019 and MSTC 2019 at a Glance

FLEX 2019 technical sessions will spotlight innovations in flexible and printed electronics products, equipment and materials as well as unique electronics applications they deliver – from new battery structures and antennas to bio-medical devices. Follow FLEX 2019 on Twitter: #FLEX2019 and @flextechnews

MSTC 2019 sessions will highlight wearables, point-of-care medical devices, food delivery, agriculture platforms, remote monitoring systems and other applications with stringent sensor, data storage, processing and transmission requirements. Follow MSTC on Twitter: #MSTC2019 and @MEMSGroup

“Advances in flexible electronics, MEMS and sensors have immediate, positive impact on the world we live in,” said Ajit Manocha, president and CEO of SEMI. “FLEX 2019 and MSTC 2019 are the ideal platforms to showcase how sensors harness the power of data and improve our lives.”

The special poster session highlighting student projects related to flexible electronics or MEMS and sensors will be back by popular demand. The posters are evaluated for their scientific methods, command of the subject matter and usefulness of the ideas to the industry. Winners receive cash awards, plaques and recognition at the annual FLEXI Awards ceremony.

Keynotes include:

  • Ford Motor Company – The changing automotive sensor landscape
  • John Deere Electronics Solutions – Autonomy in agriculture to solve challenges in space, form factor, power availability and harsh operating conditions
  • Rogers Research, Northwestern University –  The emergence of diverse, novel classes of biocompatible electronic and microfluidic systems with skin-like physical properties to enable innovations in sports and fitness
  • STMicroelectronics – Profiles of new precision sensors for industrial applications, including combination sensors, specialized sensors, and complete inertial modules

IC Insights is in the process of revising its forecast and analysis of the IC industry and will present its new findings in The McClean Report 2019, which will be published in January 2019.  Among the revisions is a complete update of forecast growth rates of the 33 main product categories classified by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization (WSTS) through the year 2023.

Topping the chart of fastest-growing products for 2018 is DRAM, which comes as no surprise given the strong rise of average selling prices in this segment over the past two years (Figure 1).  The 2018 DRAM market is expected to show an increase of 39%, a solid follow-up to the 77% growth in 2017. The number-one position is not unfamiliar territory for the DRAM market.  It was also the fastest-growing IC segment in 2013 and 2014.

Figure 1

Remarkably, DRAM has been at the top and near the bottom of this list over the past six years, demonstrating its very volatile and cyclical nature.  IC Insights forecasts that DRAM will rank nearly last in terms of market growth in 2019, with a 1% decrease in total sales.  After two strong years of growth, Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron—the world’s three primary DRAM suppliers—have expanded their manufacturing capacity and are beginning to ramp up production, bringing some much needed relief to strained supplies, especially for high-performance DRAM devices. At the same time, shipments of large-scale datacenter servers, which were a primary catalyst for much of the recent DRAM market surge, have begun to ease as uncertain economic and trade conditions factor into decisions about continuing with the strong build out.

NAND flash joins DRAM as another memory segment that has enjoyed very strong growth over the past two years (Figure 2).  Solid-state computing, particularly, has been a key driver for high-density, high-performance NAND flash even as mobile applications continue to be a significant driver. Meanwhile, automotive and computing special purpose logic devices have also been strong performers the past two years.  The top five IC markets listed for 2018 are the only product categories that are expected to surpasses the 17% growth rate of the total IC market this year.

Figure 2

The full list of IC product rankings and forecasts for the 2019-2023 timeperiod is included in The McClean Report 2019, which will be released in January 2019.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), representing U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing, design, and research, today announced worldwide sales of semiconductors reached $41.8 billion for the month of October 2018, an increase of 12.7 percent from the October 2017 total of $37.1 billion and 1.0 percent more than last month’s total of $41.4 billion. Monthly sales numbers are compiled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization and represent a three-month moving average. Additionally, a newly released WSTS industry forecast was revised upward and now projects annual global market growth of 15.9 percent in 2018 and 2.6 percent in 2019.

“The global semiconductor industry posted solid year-to-year growth in October and is on pace for its highest-ever annual sales in 2018, but growth has moderated in recent months,” said John Neuffer, president and CEO, Semiconductor Industry Association. “Although strong sales of DRAM products continue to boost overall market growth, sales in all other major product categories also increased year-to-year in October, and all major regional markets posted year-to-year gains. Double-digit annual growth is expected in 2018, with more modest growth projected for 2019.”

Regionally, year-to-year sales increased in China (23.3 percent), the Americas (14.1 percent), Europe(7.0 percent), Japan (5.5 percent), and Asia Pacific/All Other (3.7 percent). Compared with last month, sales were up in the Americas (2.8 percent), Asia Pacific/All Other (1.8 percent), Japan (0.4 percent), and Europe (0.2 percent), but down slightly in China (-0.4 percent).

Additionally, SIA today endorsed the WSTS Autumn 2018 global semiconductor sales forecast, which projects the industry’s worldwide sales will be $477.9 billion in 2018. This would mark the industry’s highest-ever annual sales, a 15.9 percent increase from the 2017 sales total of $412.2 billion. WSTS projects year-to-year increases across all regional markets for 2018: the Americas (19.6 percent), Asia Pacific (16.0 percent), Europe (13.2 percent), and Japan (9.6 percent). In 2019, growth in the semiconductor market is expected to moderate, with annual sales projected to increase by 2.6 percent. WSTS tabulates its semi-annual industry forecast by convening an extensive group of global semiconductor companies that provide accurate and timely indicators of semiconductor trends.

During the state visit of Emmanuel Macron President of the French Republic, the Belgian research center imec and the French research institute CEA-Leti, two research and innovation hubs in nanotechnologies for industry, announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that lays the foundation of a strategic partnership in the domains of Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing, two key strategic value chains for European industry, to strengthen European strategic and economic sovereignty. The joint efforts of imec and CEA-LETI underline Europe’s ambition to take a leading role in the development of these technologies. The research centers’ increased collaboration will focus on developing, testing and experimenting neuromorphic and quantum computing – and should result in the delivery of a digital hardware computing toolbox that can be used by European industry partners to innovate in a wide variety of application domains – from personalized healthcare and smart mobility to the new manufacturing industry and smart energy sectors.

shown seated from left to right: Emmanuel Sabonnadière, CEO of CEA-Leti and Ludo Deferm, EVP, corporate affairs, Imec

Edge Artificial Intelligence (eAI) commonly refers to computer systems that display intelligent behavior locally on the hardware devices (e.g chips). They analyze their environment and take the required actions to achieve specific goals. Edge AI is poised to become a key driver of economic development. And, even more importantly perhaps, it holds the promise of solving many societal challenges – from treating diseases that cannot yet be cured today, to minimizing the environmental impact of farming.

Decentralization from the cloud to the edge is a key challenge of AI technologies applied to large heterogeneous systems. This requires innovation in the components industry with powerful, energy-guzzling processors.

“The ability to develop technologies such as AI and quantum computing – and put them into industrial use across a wide spectrum of applications – is one of Europe’s major challenges. Both quantum and neuromorphic computing (to enable artificial intelligence) are very promising areas of innovation, as they hold a huge industrialization potential. A stronger collaboration in these domains between imec and CEA-Leti, two of Europe’s leading research centers, will undoubtedly help to speed up the technologies’ development time: it will provide us with the critical mass that is required to create more – and faster – impact, and will result in plenty of new business opportunities for our European industry partners,” says Luc Van den hove, president and CEO of imec.

“Two European microelectronics pioneers today are joining forces to raise the game in both high-performance computing and trusted AI at the edge, and ultimately to fuel European industry success through innovations in aeronautics, defence, automobiles, Industry 4.0 and health care,” said Emmanuel Sabonnadière, Leti CEO. “This collaboration with imec following earlier innovation-collaboration agreements with the Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the largest organization for applied research, will focus all three institutes to the task of keeping Europe at the forefront of new digital hardware for AI, HPC and Cyber-security applications.”

Imec and CEA-Leti are inviting partners from industry as well as academia to join them and benefit from access to the research centers’ state-of-the-art technology with proven reproducibility – enabling a much higher degree of device complexity, reproducibility and material perfection while sharing the costs of precompetitive research.

By Paul Semenza

Automobiles have become an even more important segment for MEMS and sensors as carmakers integrate more chips for propulsion, navigation, and control into their designs. However, these advanced functions and their crisp rate of adoption have fragmented the sourcing of automotive chips. IHS Markit’s Jérémie Bouchaud provided a closer look at and outlook for this key market at the MEMS and Sensors Executive Congress in late October in Napa. Following are key takeaways from his presentation.

Autonomous and Electric/Hybrid Vehicles to Drive MEMS Market Growth

The automotive market, approaching 100 million vehicles produced annually, is approaching $6 billion, dominated by MEMS and silicon magnetic sensors for chassis and safety, and powertrain applications. Going forward, the market growth will be in autonomous vehicles and electric/hybrid vehicles. Because the penetration of electric and hybrid vehicles is much higher than that of autonomous vehicles, it has a larger available market, particularly for sensors. Each of these markets has its own dynamics.

For example, the electric and hybrid market has historically relied on a significant number of traditional, or non-semiconductor sensors, but new sensor technologies are vying to address multiple sensing needs. The most important limitation on demand of autonomous vehicles is the overall market penetration: IHS Markit expects autonomous vehicle production to reach 10 million at most by 2030.

Production of Electric and Hybrid Automobiles Now Growing at Fast Clip

Production of electric and hybrid vehicles is in a rapid growth phase, and IHS Markit expects penetration of such vehicles to reach 50% of the automotive market by 2030, up from 3% in 2016. The core functions of charging and power inversion require, among other capabilities, current, temperature and position sensing. Historically, many of these functions have been handled by non-semiconductor devices, for example negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors for temperature sensing, devices that appear to be strongly positioned. In other areas, semiconductor sensors are competing with traditional devices.

For example, silicon magnetoresistive devices are going head-to-head with inductive devices for position and Hall effect sensing. Sensing requirements are also likely to evolve over time, particularly as battery systems become more reliable and robust. While some automakers are looking to sensors to monitor pressure or gas leaks from batteries, battery makers are more focused on maturing the systems and reducing the need for monitoring.

Autonomous Vehicles Drive New Source of Demand for MEMS and Sensors

The movement towards automated driving has created a new source of demand for MEMS and sensors, with advanced driver assistance systems driving faster growth than the historical powertrain applications. Currently available vehicles are at Level 2 (partial automation), with multiple cameras and radars. Level 3 vehicles (conditional automation) are likely to enter the market next year, adding driver monitoring cameras, LIDAR systems and, potentially, microbolometers or other night-vision systems. Level 4 and 5 (high and full automation, respectively) will add vehicle-to-vehicle communications and other systems, but are not likely to be widely available for several years.

The autonomous vehicle market, while smaller overall compared to electric/hybrid vehicles, provides a more attractive opportunity for MEMS devices, particularly in LIDAR systems. LIDAR and other sensing/surveying systems are at the heart of autonomous vehicles, and MEMS devices are in demand for the critical beam-steering function. However, demand for image and other sensors will accelerate as the higher levels of autonomy are rolled out.

Automotive Drives Extremely Diverse Set of Applications for MEMS and Sensor Makers

The automotive market presents an extremely diverse set of applications for MEMS and sensor makers. Some companies have developed broad product portfolios and compete in multiple applications. For example, TDK offers NTC thermistors as well as MEMS and silicon-based sensors. Semiconductor companies such as Infineon are competing in MEMS and with silicon-based sensors such as magnetoresitive and Hall effect.

The growth in demand for image and radar sensors used in ADAS, as well as magnetoresistive and Hall sensors in EVs, means that the center of gravity in automotive markets is likely to shift from MEMS over the next several years – a fundamental change, Bouchaud cautioned, that will put automotive sensor suppliers focusing solely on MEMS at risk.

Paul Semenza is a consultant in SEMI Industry Research and Statistics. 

By Nishita Rao

DARPA’s Vision of Cross-Collaboration

Ron Polcawich, program manager, DARPA Microsystems Technology Office, will give the closing keynote at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress on October 29-30, 2018 in Napa Valley, Calif. SEMI’s Nishita Rao spoke with Polcawich about the MEMS workshop on rapid innovation that he held earlier this year and his interest in continuing that conversation with a broad audience of MEMS and sensors suppliers attending MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress.

SEMI: What is your vision for the Rapid Innovation through Production MEMS (RIPM) concept and why does the MEMS and sensors industry need it?

Polcawich: The goal behind our RIPM concept is to advance the state of MEMS device technology by creating enhanced access to mature process flows for utilization by military, academic and commercial MEMS designers.

Compare MEMS to IC development and you will see much more rapid innovation in ICs. In many cases, IC designers can get through four design cycles in a calendar year because the process technologies are so mature.

In contrast, it can take three to four years to develop the process flow for a MEMS device. I believe that we can do better. With so much process-flow development in MEMS having taken place over the past 15 years, we now have plenty of commercial designs out there. How do we capitalize on these existing production process flows so we can rapidly innovate to avoid those painfully long production cycles?

With this question in mind, we launched a campaign to solicit feedback from small, medium and large foundries, integrated device manufacturers (IDMs), systems designers and integrators, and academic stakeholders. Our effort culminated in a May workshop where we were able to bring many of the same groups to the table. During one intensive day, we discussed challenges to the RIPM concept and what we would need to make it work.

SEMI: What were some of your areas of focus?

Polcawich: We covered a range of topics, from improving access to sophisticated packaging technology, such as advanced interposer technologies, to IP entanglement and the role of process design kits (PDKs).

SEMI: In an industry historically defined by competition over collaboration, how do you hope to convince MEMS supply-chain members to work together?

Polcawich: We see benefits from the proposed RIPM concept across the board. Foundries would benefit from outputting higher volumes of devices as well as charging for more sophisticated PDKs and process flows — which would comprise a new source of revenue for them.

From our discussions at the workshop and throughout the summer, we understand that certain technology sectors are going to be more willing to engage with the community than others. Notional examples that we highlighted at the workshop include the possibility of manufacturing high-performance inertial sensors, oscillators and pressure sensors within the same process flow. The challenge to the community is having the MEMS designers work within a locked-down process flow and not requesting different material layers, gaps and critical feature dimensions for each device type, which is very common within our industry. We asked everyone the question, “If there were broader access to production process flows, would faster technology transition and innovation cycles enable a more rapid time-to-market for a wider range of products?”

SEMI: What would you like MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress attendees to take away from your presentation?

Polcawich: We welcome additional feedback on the RIPM concept to help shape any potential program ideas. Furthermore, we would like assistance in identifying tipping-point technologies on each sector’s/foundry’s/IDM’s technology roadmap. We could use that information to determine mutual investment opportunities that could shift the roadmap timelines to the left, enabling more rapid production and commercialization timelines.  

Dr. Ronald Polcawich joined DARPA as a Program Manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) in August 2017. His research interests include advanced materials processing, micromechanics for small-scale robotics, device designs, and miniaturized position, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems. Read more.

Polcawich will present Rapid Innovation with Production MEMS Workshop Outbrief on Tuesday, October 30 at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress in Napa Valley, Calif.

Register today to connect with Ron and learn about DARPA’s rapid innovation in MEMS concept.

Nishita Rao is a marketing manager at SEMI.

By Nishita Rao

Nicolas Sauvage, senior director of Ecosystem at TDK InvenSense, will present at the fast-approaching MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress on October 29-30, 2018 in Napa, Calif. SEMI’s Nishita Rao spoke with Sauvage to offer MSEC attendees advance insights on Sauvage’s feature presentation.

SEMI: What is “autonomy value” and why is it important?

Sauvage: How do you increase the perceived value of an electronic device? If it’s an autonomous car, its value is closely tied to the autonomy level — i.e., the independence — that it offers people. Higher autonomy value for a self-driving car, for example, means that even a blind person could use it. It’s been almost two years since Waymo demonstrated this, and here’s the video that shows it.

Countless other sensor-based electronic products have their own “autonomy value.” Imagine the need to get medicine to people during a humanitarian health crisis. Drones could be your best option because they can deliver to inaccessible or remote locations. Unlike older drones, which require active piloting by a person, a drone with higher autonomy value could deliver medicine to Doctors Without Borders without ongoing human intervention.

This drone could navigate objects, such as trees and birds, and would have excellent location-awareness. It could fly through any landscape in bright sunlight or during the night. To increase the drone’s autonomy value, you would need better sensors, including those sensors that can enable sensing in sunny conditions or in pitch-black night, as well as better machine learning.

SEMI: In this example, what types of sensors would the drone manufacturer need?

Sauvage: The manufacturer would need a “surrounding-sensing” solution that includes ultrasonic and pressure sensors as well as image sensors. Start with high-quality image sensors combined with ultrasonic range-finding sensors — high-accuracy devices that function in all lighting conditions and can detect objects of any color. Add motion sensors and a pressure sensor, which would capture the height of the drone to make known the drone’s location in space. The drone would need this combination of sensors, plus smart sensor fusion, because GPS alone cannot avoid obstacles: its signal can be sporadic in certain parts of the world or in certain terrain, making it unreliable.

A key attribute of all these sensors would be low power consumption since the drone would run on battery.

SEMI: To what extent might autonomy value cause manufacturers to consider multi-vendor solutions?

Sauvage: I would like to see it inspire the MEMS and sensors ecosystem to work together, to arrive at multi-vendor solutions that will benefit humanity through greater autonomy value. Whether we’re looking at autonomous cars, drones, robotics or other applications, there are cases where we need to prioritize safety and security over industry competition.

SEMI: Where are we today in terms of achieving true autonomy value – and where are we going?

Sauvage: The sky is the limit, literally. Machine learning and surrounding-sensing solutions applied to cars, drones and robots will increase autonomy value to the point where we can justifiably call it artificial intelligence.

SEMI: What would you like MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress attendees to take away from your presentation?

Sauvage: I hope that attendees will recognize the value of ecosystem solutions in increasing autonomy value. Together we can expand the variety of sensor types that address novel use-cases and jobs-to-be-done. Instead of waiting for customers to ask for ecosystem-level solutions, we need to articulate a complete MEMS and sensors supply-chain ecosystem if we want the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to grow more quickly.

As senior director of Ecosystem, Nicholas Sauvage is responsible for all strategic relationships, including Google and Qualcomm, and other HW/SW/System companies. He is also responsible for strategic and market-driven goal-setting of our SensorStudio developer program, and driving select partnerships with SoC sensor hub platforms. Prior to joining InvenSense, Nicolas was part of NXP Software management team, responsible for worldwide sales, as well as for P&L and product management of their OEM Business Line. Nicolas is an alumnus of Institut supérieur d’électronique et du numérique, London Business School and INSEAD.

Register today to connect with Nicolas Sauvage at the event. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.

Nishita Rao is a marketing manager at SEMI.

By Nishita Rao

ULVAC Technologies’ David Mount is working with The CIA. Is he the Jack Reacher of the MEMS and sensors industry, jetting around the world to secret meetings, you wonder? While David isn’t quite the super-spy that you might have imagined, he is doing some fascinating work on behalf of ULVAC Technologies, the world leader in vacuum technology.

ULVAC has been collaborating with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) on Menus of Change, “a ground-breaking initiative from The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that works to realize a long-term, practical vision integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice industry and the culinary profession.”

ULVAC also partners with Menus of Change (MOC) University Research Collaborative, a group of elite universities and food-service executives working together to “accelerate efforts to move Americans toward healthier, more sustainable, plant-forward diets.”

MEMS & Sensors Industry Group’s Nishita Rao caught up with David, a featured speaker at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress on October 29-30, 2018, in Napa, Calif. to give MSEC attendees a preview of David’s talk.

SEMI: How did ULVAC get involved with The CIA on Menus of Change?

Mount: People in the MEMS & sensors industry may not know that ULVAC started as an equipment supplier to the food industry. In 1952 ULVAC began supplying freeze-drying equipment – which relies on vacuum technology — to food companies tasked with providing long-lasting foods and beverages for the U.S. military under the Marshall Plan. Think instant soup, ramen noodles and Tang. While ULVAC’s technology portfolio is now very broad — spanning deposition equipment for the semiconductor industry, vacuum brazing for automotive, and even vacuum freeze-drying of vaccines that can be shipped dry but combined with distilled water for administration — the company has kept a hand in food technology. ULVAC’s vacuum cooling equipment rapidly and safely cools foods, dramatically increasing shelf life.

The CIA is at the forefront of innovation in food technology, so we worked with them to test a vacuum cooling system that can also be used in the kitchen or in the field. In the Central Valley of California, for example, it can be 104ºF in the fields where lettuce is picked; our vacuum cooling system can cool that lettuce down to 47ºF in minutes.

The CIA is also developing prepared foods for industrial settings such as university cafeterias and airlines. A prepared chicken dish, for example, might be cooked at 350ºF and then cooled to refrigeration temperatures. The potential problem is that bacteria can grow when you cool that food for storage. Some of The CIA test kitchens in California are using ULVAC’s vacuum cooling system to quickly and safely cool prepared foods.

Vacuum-cooling is just one stage in food production, of course. Sensors are also widely used in food production and safety.

SEMI: How do The CIA test kitchens use sensors?

Mount: Nearly all aspects of production, processing and management in agricultural and food systems involve measurement of product and resource attributes. Sensors are a natural fit here as they can provide inspection capabilities that are accurate, fast and consistent. I plan to dive into some specific examples of the ways that The CIA and the MOC Research Collaborative are employing sensors to increase the safety of food and agricultural production.

SEMI: What would you like MSEC attendees to take away from your presentation?

Mount: I love knowing that the work that we do in this industry can benefit humanity. Applying our various technologies to food and agricultural production is just one way to do that. I encourage MSEC attendees to explore those markets that improve human quality of life – as well as the life and health of our planet and its other inhabitants.

ULVAC Technologies senior advisor David Mount is a 35-year veteran of the vacuum and thin film equipment industry. He tried to retire from ULVAC but they would not let him go! David consults with ULVAC on strategic projects such as the company’s collaboration with the CIA.

He will present Sensors in Food and Agriculture on Tuesday, October 30 at the MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress.

Register today to learn more about how sensors are transforming the food industry.

Nishita Rao is a marketing manager at SEMI.

Originally published on the SEMI blog.