Report From Sensors Expo Part 1: Best of Sensors Expo Gold Winners

E-mail Barbara Goode

Best of Sensors ExpoThe exhibit hall at Sensors Expo & Conference opened yesterday with more than 200 displays. The hall was packed (it didn't surprise me to learn that pre-registered attendance is up more than 40% over last year) and humming with good energy. We editors joined the crowd of attendees to visit the booths of each company whose product(s) had been nominated for Best of Sensors Expo awards. At the conclusion of the show we'd handed out 12 prizes and 2 honorable mentions, including four gold-level awards for products that most impressed us.

Before I tell you what they are, let me say that so many of the nominees are so good that judging was sometimes quite difficult. This, I think, is an indication of the continuing evolution of the products: As a whole the range of offerings is greatly and steadily improving. You just don't see much stagnation.

Here's another indication of the growth of sensor technology and applications: More than a quarter of the companies and organizations—65 to be exact—are exhibiting here for the first time, including giants such as IBM, Dupont, ABB, and Alcatel.

And The Winners Are . . . I'll list our Best of Sensors Expo gold winners in alphabetical order by company:

Aichi Steel Corp.'s G2 Motion Sensor integrates a three-axis magnetic sensor and a three-axis accelerometer, each with controller ICs, in an itty bitty package. It determines the attitude of mobile devices relative to geomagnetism and gravity and also calculates other aspects of movement such as acceleration, translational speed and rotational speed. Previous products in this category have been relatively large and expensive, says contributing editor Ed Ramsden, adding that the product "could enable a flood of new applications." Senior editor Melanie Martella adds that the G2 is "aimed right at consumer product apps (phones, games, etc.)."

Melexis, Inc.'s MlX90316 Rotary Position Sensor IC, the subject of a feature story in our March 2006 issue, is a novel CMOS Hall effect sensor that can sense all three magnetic flux density components at a single point, and provide noncontact position sensing in harsh environments-a feat not viable with other technologies. It is designed for contactless rotary position sensing, which is frequently required in automotive and industrial applications. "I thought highly of adding a concentrator disk that aligns the flux lines in the Z-axis direction and allows sensing in the X and Y planes. I also liked its ratiometric aspect that makes it insensitive to assorted variations," says executive editor Stephanie Henkel. Ramsden adds that even a preproduction model he'd seen earlier worked "frighteningly well."

Crossbow Technology's MoteWorks MWS200A is a development platform that helps OEMs-in disciplines such as industrial automation and control, building automation, asset mangement, and environmental monitoring-to easily create complete wireless sensor networks, and thus focus on other aspects of product and system development. It is the first platform known to address all three tiers of wireless sensor networks:

  • Device tier (operating system, mesh network stack, over-the-air-programming, cross development tools)
  • Gateway tier (enterprise server gateway middleware)
  • Client tier (visualization, analysis and management)

Seems to me that this product will help people implement wireless sensor networks with much greater ease-and that's why I like it so much. Martella agrees, saying it "Allows you to develop applications without having to stress about the interplay of the various levels."

Solidica, Inc.'s Solidica Chorus is a new ultra-rugged sensor that measures temperature, vibration, and three-dimensional acceleration, adds GPS/dead reckoning location data, and then transmits the data wirelessly to any ZigBee-compliant or 802.15.4 platform. All that functionality is impressive, but even more impressive is Solidica's unique ultrasonic consolidation process, which embeds the sensors in a solid piece of metal, enabling operation in even the harshest environments. "Insane!" says Martella, who interviewed the developers. She reports that Dr. Dawn White, an ex-Ford welding expert, had the idea of using ultrasonic welding to layer thin sheets of metal together-a cold form of metal rapid prototyping that allows embedding of sensors and electronics. The product's case is the antenna. The company's booth displays a sensor designed for the chain gun on top of armored vehicles to keep track of how many shots have been fired.

That's it for today. Tomorrow I'll be back to tell you about the three silver-level winners, followed by the bronze winners and our honorable mentions.

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