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Preview of the MEMS Technology Showcase at MEMS Executive Congress US 2012

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
If I must tell the truth, the genesis of MEMS Technology Showcase began (as many great ideas do) at a bar over beers, the closing night of MEMS Executive Congress 2010. I was talking with Bryan Hoadley of Movea, who had just spoken on the MEMS in Consumer panel. He and I talked about what the MEMS industry needs — a way to show how cool the MEMS inside is — to showcase the "MEMS in the machine" (a marketing theme that we at MEMS Industry Group had just launched earlier that year). And viola! The concept for MEMS Technology Showcase was born.

My vision was to create a carnival-type atmosphere where OEM/end-user companies would compete to come up on stage while the moderator would be the ringmaster, virtual whip in hand, taming the masses who want a glimpse at the wonder of those magnificent MEMS-enabled products. My ultimate goal was to have companies not wait to release their products at CES in January, but instead, at MEMS Technology Showcase in November. I fantasized that someday even Apple would want to release their latest iPhone at the Congress! — (Well you must admit there are a lot of MEMS in there!)

Last year the MEMS Technology Showcase was a huge success — so big that others even tried to replicate it at their events (I guess it’s that expression: "imitation is the best form of flattery," right?) We crowned Recon Instruments‘ MOD-Live heads-up display for goggles as our winner, and they’ve gone on to great commercial success and recognition.

This year we have six finalists, and I am confident that our winner will receive accolades and customer orders galore, and it’ll be due in part to those fabulous little MEMS chips inside, enabling all that functionality in a smaller, faster and lower-power form factor with heaps of intelligence to boot.

I am equally confident in this year’s moderator, Shawn G. DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research, Consumer Electronics Association. (BTW nothing will come close to CES, I was just kidding, Shawn. No hard feelings, right?) Shawn has mastered similar types of competitions for CEA and has already shared his advice on how to mange the "flow" of the competition/panel; his biggest suggestion was to get a HUGE DIGITAL CLOCK like the ones they have at finish lines for marathons. I thought we’d get the whip from my original ringmaster idea…

Here’s a peek at who will be competing in our second annual MEMS Technology Showcase:

VUE Patch

BodyMedia‘s VUE Patch — is a seven-day, disposable body-monitoring patch that measures calorie burn, activity levels and sleep patterns, creating a snapshot of lifestyle habits to guide recommendations for weight loss, diabetes management, sports/fitness, corporate wellness, and more.

12-axis Xtrinsic Sensor Platform for Windows 8

Freescale Semiconductor‘s 12-axis Xtrinsic sensor platform for Windows 8 extends sensor fusion in tablets, slates, laptops and other portable devices. This complete hardware and software reference platform fuses accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope data using a Freescale ColdFire+ MCU. It also features a ‘smart’ pressure sensor that provides pressure and altitude data. Certified for Windows 8.

Intel Atom Z2760 for Windows 8 tablets and convertibles

The Intel Atom processor Z2760 ("Clover Trail") was architected specifically for Windows 8. It is based on Intel’s 32nm process technology, powers lightweight tablets and convertibles that meet the demands of consumers and business users, and includes outstanding battery life, always-on technology, connected standby and the sleekest designs available. This touch-enabled tablet features a sensor hub microcontroller with an array of physical and logical motion sensors (including accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, fusion sensors (compass, device orientation, and inclinometer), proximity, additional location systems (ALS) and GPS. Certified for Windows 8.

Light Bohrd

Light Bohrd, LLC, is looking to make revolutionary contributions in skateboarding and snowboarding style and safety by adding the world’s first motion-activated LED lights to each sport’s respective boards. The Light Bohrd LED design uses patent-pending technology to store energy and activate LED lights to illuminate the board’s graphics. With technology completely embedded, Light Bohrd’s boards are charged wirelessly through magnetic induction and are brought to life by the wave of a magnet. The lights are then activated with motion. A fully charged Light Bohrd will stay lit for up to six hours.

LUMOback

LUMOback is a wearable sensor and smartphone app that provides feedback on posture and movement. The sensor band is worn around the waist and gently vibrates when the wearer slouches to remind him/her to sit or stand up straight. The smartphone app displays an avatar that mimics the wearer’s movements and posture in real time, capturing that information when he/she sits, stands, walks, runs and sleeps. It is compatible with the iPhone 5, 4S, new iPod touch (5th gen) or new iPad (3rd gen).

Sphero

Orbotix‘s Sphero is the first robotic-ball gaming device controlled with a tilt, touch or swing from a smartphone or tablet. It immerses users in a new type of gameplay called "mixed-reality," in which real and virtual elements are seamlessly merged. Sphero interacts with mobile apps, giving people new ways to test their skills, play games with friends, and more. Users can even employ Sphero as a controller for on-screen gameplay. With free apps being developed continuously, including a mixed-reality version of golf, Sphero provides plenty of gaming thrills.

Please join us Thursday, November 8, 2012, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. for the MEMS Technology Showcase at the MEMS Executive Congress. This panel is sponsored by Movea.

Preview of our fabulous keynotes at MEMS Executive Congress US 2012

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
by Karen Lightman, managing director, MEMS Industry Group

Recently I was talking with a MIG member about what was unique about this year’s Congress. I actually surprised myself when I instantly blurted out, "the keynotes!" Normally, I would talk about how cool the MEMS Technology Showcase is (and it is — really, it is!) And you’ll soon hear about it in an upcoming story/blog). But honestly, when I answer from my gut, I gotta go with my initial answer: this year’s fabulous keynotes.

Our opening keynote speaker is Ajith Amerasekera, TI Fellow, IEEE Fellow, Kilby Labs, Texas Instruments. Ajith was the director of Kilby Labs at TI, which he has described as a "do tank" rather than a "think tank." I am grateful for the time that Ajith has taken from his super-busy schedule solving important challenges at TI to answer a few questions for me, give us a peek inside his brain and preview what he’ll be discussing in his keynote, "Ultra Low-Power Electronics in the Next Decade," on the morning of November 8.

Ajith, with your vast experience at TI in the VLSI Design Labs, director of ASIC Technology Strategy, as well as the director of Kilby Labs, you’ve gained a great perspective of high tech and how it’s evolved since the 1980′s. So given your experience, how do you define the shift in electronic technology from centralized and high-touch to ubiquitous and low-touch, and what are the driving forces?

A. The shift is defined by a need for more localized intelligent electronic devices to control and manage our environment — from home automation to the smart grid. Electronics are enabling us to be more efficient and productive. The ability to build more powerful devices at very low power and cost levels enables us to distribute and embed intelligence widely. TI is a major player in ultra-low power, high-performance, analog chips and embedded processors that are the heart of these new systems.

Thank you, Ajith. Can you expand on why low-power electronic devices are so important to distributing intelligence across applications in our personal lives, health, transportation, and safety and security?

A. Power is critical to the operation of electronic devices. The more devices used, the more power we need, and the more we need them to be power-efficient. There are also other factors in play such as power distribution and availability, battery management, etc.

Can you give me some examples, or are we primarily talking about evolutionary advancements in smartphones and tablets?

A. We are talking about advancements in everything. One example is in the infotainment system of an automobile, where the center auto console is controlled by gesture-sensing that can tell if the person interacting is the driver or passenger, thereby limiting distracting behavior (like checking Facebook) for the driver, but allowing it for the passenger. Another example is a project on which we are actively working: the realization of smart buildings, smart cities and smart transportation. These projects require us to sense the environment and then optimize usage against resource availability. Interactive sensing is also useful in wellness management, health management, fitness and sports. Smartphones and tablets are just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of low-power applications that are changing our relationship with electronic devices.

That is fascinating and I can’t wait to hear more in your keynote, because I totally agree with you. But now I’ve gotta ask more about my favorite acronym, MEMS. What are your thoughts on how MEMS technology enables digital environments that adapt to and anticipate our needs? And where are the biggest potential impacts (positive and negative)?

A. We need to be able to sense our environment. And the key technology that helps us to do that is MEMS. MEMS technology will enable us to recreate the five senses — touch, smell, hearing, sight, taste — and will give us the capability to anticipate and adapt our needs. As for impacts, the positive impacts are already visible in the way we interact with our phones and tablets, how our homes manage power usage — kitchen appliances for baking potatoes to energy efficient dishwashers, for example. Negative impacts include security and safety, which arise when we rely so heavily on electronic technology. However, I am confident that these challenges will be solved.


And then to top it off, we have an equally amazing keynote in the afternoon. As our closing keynote, I have invited Robert Brunner who is the founder, creative director and partner of Ammunition, where he communicates strategic innovation through product design, brand and surrounding experience.

What most impresses me about Robert is that when he’s working with the likes of Dr. Dre on his Beats’ brand of high-performance headphones and loudspeakers and the Barnes & Noble folks on their Nook, he is always thinking of the human hands that are going to use the end product. He truly understands that it’s not the gee-whiz of a technology that will determine the success of a product, but it’s the design and how it fits and works with the human — and the human hands that will make or break the next killer app.

I am equally grateful to Robert for sharing his brilliance with me and answering a few questions to preview his upcoming keynote. I asked him to tailor his keynote to my MEMS supply chain audience and push them to really think about where their products are ending up: in human hands.

Robert, what if we in the MEMS industry "build it and no one comes?" In other words, why is the user experience more important than component technology in creating the amazing product breakthroughs that change our world? What are a few examples?

A. While underlying technology is essential to providing a capability to the user, what people really care about is what it does, how it does it, how it feels and how it fits their lives. So it might be a great breakthrough, but if it is not designed for the user in a way that is compelling and desirable, they won’t care and it will fail. The iPhone is a perfect example of this. There is tremendous development and technology behind what makes it function the way it does, but what people care about is how it delivers that total user experience. It is why it’s such a successful a product.

Thank you, Robert. Following on that same line of thinking, how can technologists understand and value the user experience as much as they do the underlying technology within? Based on your experience working at Apple, what is the best piece of advice that you can impart to technologists working to create a breakthrough product that will be loved by the masses for its industrial design?

A. First of all, everybody is a designer. That is, anywhere you are on the chain in delivering something into a user’s hands, you have a role in enabling an experience and should embrace this responsibility. It is always important to work back from the ideal experience into the device, not the other way around. If you let the technology drive the experience per se, you may end up with something that works, but is difficult, and does not connect with people. As the product is being developed, work with user-experience (UE) or design teams early to define and understand the ideal user scenario, then activate that as a tool to shape the functionality and capabilities of the technology and device. It is truly about an insurance policy for success.

Again — fantastic and practical all at the same time. So how can I take this "to the street" as it were? How can MEMS device manufacturers increase the perceived value of their products to customers? How about to end-users? (Will there ever be a campaign for the ‘gyro inside,’ for example?)

A. Well, this is tricky, as it has to be real. You cannot simply brand something around an ideal unless you have the technology and capability to support it. "Intel Inside" was quite successful as they managed to communicate it as a sort of quality ideal (and forced manufacturers to put the tag on their products!) But today, I think people are suspicious of this unless it goes with an actual capability that is valuable to them. If you successfully embody a user-centric approach to realizing a capability and can define its value to people, then finding a way to succinctly and emotionally communicate this to people can be huge!

We put this into practice with Beats Audio. We built a brand around an emotional connection to music with our Beats’ products, then licensed the underlying algorithm and DSP to other companies, and allowed them to carry the Beats Audio brand on their products. The Beats’ symbol carries an emotional meaning with regard to reproducing modern music, so it has value for people that they are willing to buy. If we had not created that value in how people connect to the products’ functionality, it would be meaningless.

Well I hope you are as enthralled with these two guys as I am and will join me for our eighth annual MEMS Executive Congress keynotes:

  • Thursday, November 8, 2012, 4:15-5:00 p.m. for "Ideas, Not Objects," with an introduction by Mike Rosa, MEMS global product manager, Applied Materials.

Preview of MEMS in consumer products panel at MEMS Executive Congress US 2012

Monday, October 8th, 2012
By Karen Lightman, managing director, MEMS Industry Group

I remember the first time we had a panel on consumer MEMS products at the MEMS Executive Congress. It was November 2006: Marlene Bourne was our moderator and our panelists were: Frank Melzer (CEO of the newly formed Bosch Sensortec); Benedetto Vigna (back then his title was MEMS business unit director, STMicroelectronics); Mark Martin’s predecessor, Bill Giudice, vice president and general manager, Micromachined Products Division, Analog Devices; and Rick Thompson, manager, Advanced RF Technologies, BAE SYSTEMS.

Well, things sure have changed since then, haven’t they? In those days, we were all abuzz about the imminent release of the Nintendo Wii and the amazing impact of the Apple iPod. (The iPhone wouldn’t be announced for another two months.) Makes me smile when I think back at how simple and innocent the times were back then…
We’ve learned a lot over the past six years. While most of the companies from the 2006 consumer panel are still active in MEMS (but only two of the panelists!), the Congress is now focused on hearing from end-users who are driving the market for MEMS. I am honored and truly delighted to have as this year’s moderator for "MEMS in Consumer Products," my colleague Evgeni Gousev, senior director, Technology Development, Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Inc.

I had the rare delight of discussing the panel topic over dinner with Evgeni when I was in the Bay Area a few weeks ago (for the MEMS workshop MIG did with BSAC). I scribbled my notes in between bites of a delicious, fresh California green salad to get a glimpse of what Evgeni will be discussing with panelists on the topic of MEMS in consumer products.

Q: Evgeni, I am impressed by the combined breadth of experience of your panelists. Can you give me a little background?

A: Sanjay Gupta recently left Motorola Mobility where he was vice president of product development. Sanjay has a successful track record of conceptualization, development, and commercialization of complex software and consumer electronics products; was a founding Board member of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and served on the Java Community Process (JCP), ME Executive Committee (EC); and led the standardization of GSM, GPRS and UMTS standards.

Dragan Mladenovic is director of business management for Maxim Integrated’s Sensor Division. Dragan has an extensive background in the semiconductor industry and has worked on the following projects: automotive airbag satellite sensors; automotive 77GHz radar (based on the SiGe technology); and eCompass (based on the TMR technology). Most recently Dragan has been involved in the 4 degrees of freedom (DoF) MEMS products for automotive safety applications (rollover, dynamic stability control) and 3DoF of 6DoF MEMS products for smartphones, tablets and wearable devices.

Will Turnage is vice president of technology and invention at the advertising agency, R/GA. Will is accountable for global technical product innovation and digital experimentation at R/GA; recent projects include Nike+ FuelBand. With a well-earned reputation as an industry thought leader, he has presented his unique perspective at events like SXSW, the Behance Network’s 99% Conference, and JSConf.

Q: Fantastic lineup of panelists who will give us very diverse perspectives on future markets for MEMS in consumer products! Now let’s talk about potential questions you’d like to ask these guys. For instance, what drives innovative applications, software and hardware in MEMS? How can companies add value to the MEMS supply chain?

A. Historically it’s always been the MEMS technology itself (the "tech push") that has driven the innovation. But this has changed as the demand for consumer products has grown, and cost pressures have risen. Now we are seeing more "market pull", or consumer demand for features enabled by MEMS, with increased opportunities for software integrators and designers to utilize MEMS as an enabling technology.

Because the consumer products’ market is mostly customer-driven, MEMS suppliers are typically delivering technology that is just "good enough." But customers are demanding more, and OEMs are forced to respond in kind. MEMS suppliers are stepping up with sensor-fusion software that supports the MEMS within, to make it easier for OEMs to get what they want, and the application development community also has a role to play. The most successful companies have mobilized and connected to the user community to help develop some of the most creative and practical uses of their products. Their approach proves that you must have all the pieces together — cooperation between technology and the application folks from the very beginning.

For mobile devices, the main requirements are "good-enough technology" but also low cost and low power consumption. The industry is doing pretty well on two of the three, but one could argue that there still is room for improvement in other areas in the consumer products market — especially with respect to power consumption. There are still many untapped opportunities and markets for solutions like energy harvesting and other lower-power options for consumer products. MEMS can and will play a key role here.

Q. What are the macro societal trends that will drive demand for more consumer products with MEMS inside? What are the challenges?

A. Consumers are expecting — really — demanding MEMS-based solutions in their consumer products. That raises the bar even higher — to the degree that MEMS is expected in every next-generation consumer product. We need to think about what’s next and big and really revolutionary in the use and application of MEMS.

In the mobile space content that is context and location relevant due to advanced sensors are rich MEMS-based opportunities. Monetization of digital content is only in its very formative stages and will grow exponentially when the content is more relevant to the time, environment and context to the content consumer.

It’s also a generational thing. Younger generations use and communicate via consumer products differently. This has and will continue to raise the expectations for MEMS in consumer products. For example, augmented reality (AR) gets a lot of attention. Today we see AR applications gaming, media/advertising, and education. Futurists predict we will likely see AR in visual speech, navigation and discovery, and social networking. With MEMS sensor data, adding connectivity and the cloud, the MEMS infrastructure is strong and will only grow as these macroeconomic trends evolve.

Thank you, Evgeni. I am really looking forward to hearing more about MEMS in Consumer Products at MEMS Executive Congress US 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ in November!