Karen’s Blog from ESC Silicon Valley 2011 – MEMS Panel

By Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

“Welcome to the land of geek-dom” should have been the sub-heading of this year’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Silicon Valley. Don’t get me wrong, I love engineers, I love working with engineers and in fact, I married an engineer. So please don’t hate me for my snarky comment – I make it with the fullest respect for those whose motto is “how does this thing work and how can I make it better?” These are my people.

I spent day one of the show walking the show floor, talking with exhibitors, attendees, colleagues, MIG members, editors and even the security guards. What struck me was that of the exhibitors and attendees, a good chunk (let’s say 30%) of them were using some form of MEMS technology in their product demos and offerings.  Impressed, is more like it – and that probably explains why ESC offered MIG to showcase a selection of its members and their MEMS offerings on May 4 at a panel “Integrating MEMS with DSPs and Microprocessors.” In other words, MEMS is in the mainstream, baby.

So let me give you a quick overview of the panel I moderated and then I’ll loop back and tell you about the cool folks I met (and the great Korean BBQ I ate!). My fellow panelists were: Eric Pabo, Business Development Manager MEMS, EV Group; Michael Housholder, Senior Director of Solution Marketing, InvenSense; Michael Maia, Vice President, Americas Sales and Marketing, Kionix; Tom Flynn, VP Business Development and Sales, Coventor; and Wayne Meyer, Marketing and Applications Manager, MEMS and Sensor Technology Group, Analog Device.

Our mission was to discuss how consumers are engaging with portable embedded systems in fundamentally new ways. In their very short intros (I gave them three minutes each; if they went over they feared hearing a loud GONG and losing their mic) the panelists described how, thanks in large part to MEMS enabling power, people are enjoying, expecting and DEMANDING more realistic game play with Nintendo Wii, pinpoint their location on an iPhone with Google Maps, share videos with friends via miniature pico projectors, and manage insulin delivery more accurately than ever with tiny MEMS insulin pumps.

The panelists discussed how in this incredibly competitive market space, and as MEMS’ implementations become more commonplace, embedded designers are increasingly called upon to integrate MEMS with DSP and/or microprocessors.  We had a lot of fun as we discussed the challenges and benefits of integrating MEMS with DSP and microprocessors (no simple task). We also discussed and suggested what embedded designers need to know to be successful.

Highlights: Eric Pabo imparted some words of wisdom on the HOW and the WHAT of connecting MEMS to a signal process. Wayne Meyer discussed how MEMS “MEMS sensor embedded intelligence” offers lower power, lower form and improved functionality.  Mike Houshoulder overviewed the motion processor solution components including sensor fusion, calibration algorithms, as well as DSP/API integration. Mike Maia described it in terms of a “inertial sensor architecture continuum” and the integrate complexity of such devices. Tom Flynn described the integration of MEMS with DSPs/microprocessors from a software design perspective and the role of MEMS design tools.

I encouraged the engineers in the audience to come up with the next new iPhone and Wiimote. I truly believe that someone in that ESC audience has the potential to revolutionize the use of MEMS and hopefully even make the world a better place, thanks in part to MEMS enabling technology.

After the panel ended, and before the panelists and I celebrated with beers, I was very pleased to see how many people in the standing-room-only audience came up to all of us, thanking for our panel discussion and asking for business cards. I also was pleased that EETimes/UBM invited MIG to host a similar panel at ESC Chicago which is in conjunction with Sensors Expo Chicago next month.

Besides the fun time I had on the panel I also enjoyed my time connecting with MIG members who exhibited (AEPI, Freescale, Maxim, Movea, and Texas Instruments).  I was uber-impressed by the keynote by Meg Selfe, who is VP of Complex and Embedded Systems, IBM Rational Software. Ms. Selfe gave an impressive overview and case study of GM and the retooling of the Chevy Volt. I was also excited to hear her talk about the “system of systems” and while she didn’t name MEMS specifically, I know that is what she meant to include.

And lastly, I must mention the fantastic dinner I had with Eric Pabo and Calin Miclaus (GE Sensing in Fremont) at one of the BEST Korean BBQ’s I have ever had. I have no idea what the Korean names were of the dinner but let’s just say that the Kim-shee helped clear out my sinuses and the beef we cooked on the grill put me into a pleasant food coma. YUM.

And with that I am signing off-until my next travel blog from Sensors Expo Chicago!

Click here to view photos from the event!

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