Latest Trends in Sensors – Miniaturizations and Combinations

We see various sensors in smartphones and other gadgets. So far, most of the sensors were available only as discrete solutions – one sensor for one parameter. The latest trend is to combine several sensors into one package, cutting the overall cost of the sensors.

It is now commonplace to find several sensors in a package, for example, gyroscopes and accelerometers. In fact, now the majority of the market is for combo sensors of this type, and such combination sensors are a very important trend on the technology side.

Another trend catching on fast is miniaturization. As cell phones grow thinner and more goodies are increasingly packed within them, miniaturization of sensors is enabling some of innovative sensor packages and devices. Starting with the X-Box Contact, which brought in various sensors for delivering rich fidelity, we see them moving in into mobile devices as well.

Today, you can visualize fitness as seeing the key vital signs, and the visibility of biometrics is fast becoming a reality. Sensor miniaturization along with the enhanced fidelity of devices is allowing device manufacturers and service providers experiment with devices for offering and fulfilling compelling specific needs.

The MEMS sensor from Bosch has combined pressure, temperature and humidity measurement in a single component. This sensor, BME280, is meant for use in handsets and wearables. It provides greater control and is useful for people interested in fitness and sports. The humidity sensor senses and measures relative humidity ranging from 0-100%, between -40°C and +85°C and with a response time of less than one second. With an accuracy of plus or minus 3%, a hysteresis of 2% or more, the temperature reading of the sensor has an accuracy of 0.5% Celsius.

The pressure sensor of BME280 makes indoor navigation very simple. The device is sensitive to pressure changes of plus or minus one meter of altitude difference with a resolution of 1.5 cms and a relative accuracy of plus or minus 0.12 hPA. The 8-pin LGA packaging of BME280 measures 2.5×2.5 mm, a height of 0.93 mm and has I2C and SPI serial digital outputs. Bosch provides the BSH1.0 algorithm for developers to place a function for temperature compensation in the device.

Miniaturization can be seen in the new generation of sensors for infrared sensing that are now entering the smartphone bandwagon for night vision and surveillance. At CES this year, people really welcomed the idea of scanning the environment at night. For example, walking out to the car at night feels much safer if the area can be seen beforehand.

FLIR Systems Inc., have fitted an infrared sensor to one of their smartphone jackets. It is a heat camera, and the jacket is suitable for thermal imaging attachment for the iPhone 5 and the 5S. The screen displays temperature in different colors. For example, the hottest temperatures are shown in yellow, while the colder ones have a more purple hue. This is a very useful attachment for detecting insulation or moisture leaks in the home and for spotting people or wildlife at night. You can record video of heat images or its photographs at low resolutions.