Christian Peters: MEMS sensors are being deployed to save lives

Fierce Electronics asked sensors expert Christian Peters to explain benefits of MEMS sensors. He presents a keynote address at Sensors Converge 2023 on June 21.

Q: Your keynote at Sensors is about use of sensors to save lives and to enable sustainability. Can you share an example of saving lives? 

Peters: MEMS sensors have become crucial in safeguarding lives. Only over the past six years, MEMS accelerometers have saved over 50,000 lives through their incorporation in airbag systems. Furthermore, from 2010 to 2014, the inclusion of MEMS gyroscopes in electronic stability control systems (ESC) resulted in the preservation of over 4,000 lives. These gyroscopes effectively reduce the risk of fatal single vehicle rollovers by an impressive 75%. By enabling advanced safety measures, MEMS sensors are playing a pivotal role in preventing accidents and minimizing fatalities, making our daily lives safer on the roads.

Q: Sustainability is a big topic. How would a sensor help? Is that mainly reduced power use  in the actual sensor component or do you mean more of a system-wide approach? Can you give a real life example?

Peters: Reducing sensor power consumption is helping sustainability, as it diminishes battery dependence. However, a broader perspective is vital. By utilizing sensors to detect system states and initiating appropriate actions, we can optimize resource usage and drive efficient, sustainable practices. MEMS sensors are instrumental in promoting sustainability across various domains. Tire pressure monitoring systems, utilizing MEMS pressure sensors, offer significant fuel savings, surpassing $500 million annually. Proper tire pressure alone plays a crucial role in conserving resources. Moreover, gas, humidity, and temperature sensors aid in the early detection of wildfires, which account for a staggering 20% of global carbon emissions. Addressing the issue of food waste, sensors prove valuable throughout the entire food lifecycle, contributing to a reduction in the current 1/3 wastage of global food production. By enabling efficient resource management and minimizing waste, MEMS sensors play a pivotal role in fostering sustainability from multiple perspectives.

Q: On the sustainability front, again, are you seeing the topic is still top of mind for industrial users? With the poor economy, do companies care as much as two years ago?  Do you see interest growing faster in coming years?

Peters: The challenging economic situation might have influenced the internal priority of sustainability in numerous companies. While the topic may face delays, it is evident that industry leaders must act swiftly to avoid long-term repercussions resulting from prioritizing short-term cost savings. A commendable example is Bosch, which achieved carbon neutrality globally in 2020, even amidst the full swing of the pandemic. Bosch's commitment to this endeavor serves as an encouraging demonstration of their belief in the significance of sustainability.

Christian Peters, PhD, is director and global head of of smart sensors and hardware systems at Bosch Research. He is speaking June 21 at Sensors Converge 2023 at 11:20 a.m. on “Sensors: Saving lives, enabling sustainability.”  Sensors Converge 2023 runs June 20-22 in Santa Clara, Califorinia. Registration is available online.