Musical MEMS?

Written by: Stephen Whalley, Chief Strategy Officer, MEMS Industry Group

I had the pleasure of attending the 8th Annual Body Computing Conference on October 3rd 2014.  This was the second year I have attended, and once again it did not disappoint.  In one jam-packed day, this conference spearheaded by Dr. Leslie Saxon, Executive Director USC Center For Body Computing, brought together digital health rock stars of innovation from startups to the traditional establishments, investors, academics, athletes, and the general healthcare and technology supply chain.  While I could point out a number of interesting new devices, software, APPs and services that were announced at the conference, I’d like to give a brief mention of just one.

SingFit is a musical therapy mobile app.  It’s actually a bit of a stretch to mention it at all as it uses little to no MEMS technology.  I highlight it though as it won the Body Computing and Skullcandy SLAM contest.  The win highlights a growing trend in using music as a way to help patients comply with their therapies.  It is also fun and shows great results.  Rachel Francine and Andy Tubman developed and created the SingFit app to find new solutions for everything from autism and depression to chronic pain and Parkinson’s disease, by using the world’s oldest medicine, music, in a 21st century fashion. SingFit digitizes the evidence-based music therapy technique of lyric prompting, which enables practically everyone, including those with dementia, autism and traumatic brain injuries to sing on a regular basis in order to achieve therapeutic goals.  The videos that Andy showed at the event were truly inspiring.  They motivated me to think about what could be done if more MEMS and sensors were used in this way.

The Body Computing Conference topics and general industry landscape point to MEMS/sensors being front and center of the mobile health and handheld/wearable device discussion. During the conference, various speakers mentioned the current and future use and impact of MEMS/sensors throughout the day.

While there have been tremendous advancements in MEMS over the past two decades to meet the demanding needs of high-volume automotive and consumer electronics, we are still in our relative infancy when it comes to small form factor, low-power, low-cost mobile biosensors being applied in wellness and medical applications to deliver an easy-to-use consumer experience.  As one analyst and panel discussion pointed out, the future is not wearable…it’s invisible.  Is the MEMS/sensor industry capable of delivering on this future anytime soon?  When will implantable sensors, skin tattoo sensors and sensor-based clothing actually be a reality for the masses?  Lots more work to do here whether you believe it’s upon us already or will happen for the next generation.

The ‘more work to do’ aspect has got to involve closer cooperation between the healthcare industry and MEMS/sensor technologists.  While Dr. Saxon ‘s work and conference are a bright spot in bringing technological innovation into healthcare settings, and AliveCor is a notable success story here, we are just scratching the surface of the opportunity and the challenges still to come.

The good news is that many individuals, companies and industry bodies are coming together to discuss and debate the issues.  We need to move quickly to not just observe these challenges but to join and co-create the future of digital health.   MEMS Industry Group has formed a healthcare working group to focus on what we can do to better serve not only the needs of our members and industry but to see how we can better serve the needs of the healthcare industry and our co-creation partners there.  There will be a panel and topic table session on this at the upcoming MEMS Executive Congress US 2014, November 5-7, Scottsdale, AZ.  Come sing, dance and co-create with us!

Karen’s Blog – Pittsburgh IMAPS Workshop

Packaging means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Webster’s dictionary defines package as a “group or a number of things, boxed and offered as a unit.”

For my school-age daughters, packaging means figuring out how to maximize the components of their lunch into these bento-box-like containers I bought at Target in hopes that it would simplify their packaging and assembling process (at low cost and decent performance, mind you). Two months into the school year the packaging appears to be weathering extreme temperatures (cold fridge to hot dishwasher), drop-tests (I am sure you need no explanation here) and what I can only describe as a “cram test” (how many Oreos can you fit inside without the box breaking or my parents noticing).

But if you are in the microelectronics/MEMS industry, when you hear the word packaging your mind goes to the various MEMS packages that can contain a multitude of electrical and mechanical components that are inter-connected to the outside world for devices such as MEMS microphones, airbag accelerometers, gyros, RF MEMS and the list just goes on and on.

I had the pleasure to learn more about the challenges and opportunities affecting MEMS packaging at a recent International Microelectronics Assembly and Packaging Society (IMAPS) workshop held in my hometown of Pittsburgh and at my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Presenters included our host, Gary Fedder, CMU’s Director of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (ICES); Maarten de Boer, CMU Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Brett Diamond, MEMS Development Manager, Akustica; Erdinc Tatar, CMU Graduate Student; and yours truly.

To say that my presentation was different from the others is a gross understatement – I talked about the potential for MEMS and sensors in the expanding world of Internet of Things (IoT) as well as an overview of MEMS/sensors standardization and the proactive role that MEMS Industry Group (MIG) and my partners/members/colleagues are playing in addressing the remaining challenges to commercialization. You can access my presentation on the MIG resource library webpage (no password required).

As the others’ presentations are not posted (at least to my knowledge) I figure I’d give you a quick synopsis of what I learned and heard. Gary basically gave an overview about how amazing and fantastic CMU’s engineering, robotics and computer science departments are and that CMU is now partnering and working with universities and centers around the globe. Literally. They even have two programs going on in China.

Maarten’s presentation on the “Effect of Gas Environment and Materials on Electrical Contact Reliability in Micro- and Nanoswitches” was illuminating as I am somewhat familiar with the work that GE Global Research is doing on RF MEMS switches and am aware of the incredible market potential for this area (I wrote a featured blog on this topic for GE’s “Edison’s Desk” earlier this year). Maarten and his colleagues at CMU are taking this a bit further, by looking into different materials and applications at the nano scale.

Brett’s presentation on “Challenges in the Design, Manufacturing, and Usage of MEMS Microphones” was really impressive as it gave a very in-depth view of the true challenges of packaging a device that by design needs to be open to the environment. No small task and it was equally exciting to hear Brett hint at the future applications and integrations with their MEMS mic’s (I will not repeat them here at the risk of disclosing something I shouldn’t). But let’s just say that the market applications for MEMS microphones are just at the beginning – the potential is really big.

Erdinc’s presentation on “Environmental and Packaging Effects on High-Performance Gyroscopes” revealed why so many engineers love their work in the lab – as they are able to tinker and explore with new materials and processes. It’s another reason why I love my work in MEMS/sensors – because there is still an opportunity for “new science.”

MIG helped sponsor the event by providing snacks (including some great chocolate cookie/pie things that melted in my mouth) for the attendees to enjoy while attending the workshop and to facilitate networking. What I learned at the workshop confirmed what I suspected before – packaging is in the eye of the beholder – and at the end of the day what really matters is that the package is at a cost that is reflective of its application and performance expectations.  Therefore, it’s important to communicate those expectations from both the user and supplier’s perspectives.

Packaging means a lot of different things and if done well it can mean the difference between success and failure. Or in my daughters’ case, deciding on how many Oreos to fit into the package before it fails and Mom finds out.

To access Karen’s presentation, click here.

Sensory Shanghai

September 18, 2014/ MEMS INDUSTRY GROUP

Written by: Stephen Whalley, Chief Strategy Officer, MEMS Industry Group

It was over 10 years ago that I last visited Shanghai and oh my, how things have changed, most visibly, the skyline.  Looking across the Huangpu River from The Bund back then, I clearly remember the ‘Pearl’ TV tower and a few tall buildings and thought how impressive it looked.  Now, the view is an even more sumptuous feast for the eyes, day or night, and it keeps on growing and evolving.  So too does the connectivity of the buildings and the people that live and work in Shanghai as the Internet of ‘Things’ brings it all together locally and globally.

Shanghai circa 2001

Shanghai city photo 1

Shanghai 2014

Shanghai city photo 2

I was in Shanghai to co-host the inaugural MEMS Industry Group (MIG) Conference Shanghai, September 11-12th, with our local partners, the Shanghai Industrial Technology Research Institute (SITRI) and the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT).  The theme was the Internet of Things and how the MEMS and Sensors supply chain needs to evolve to address the explosive growth in China.

As one of our featured speakers, Jérémie Bouchaud of IHS pointed out, China-based smartphone vendors such as Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi Technology and Oppo collectively make China the third largest handset manufacturer globally behind Apple and Samsung.  With each handset having a dozen or more MEMS and sensor components, it’s easy to see why China’s government, research organizations, OEMs and investment funds are paying attention to this market.  They also see where it’s going beyond these mobile consumer electronic devices of today.  With the rise of smart cities, buildings, farms, homes, vehicles, wearable devices and more — where clusters of sensors abound — the hockey-stick growth predictions are gathering momentum.

With that background, over 150 attendees from China and 15 other countries came together to hear and discuss what’s needed to meet this opportunity.  New technologies and products, fabs, funding and city infrastructure were all covered throughout the conference.  It was clear that the international MEMS/sensors suppliers do not want to blink and miss the opportunity (as some already have, and to their detriment) and that the local MEMS/sensors community wants to ensure they do all they can to build a self-sustaining supply chain in and around Shanghai.  MEMS Industry Group members can access all the great presentations here.

For the time being, the potential and high stakes for all sides means that the Shanghai skyline will be a familiar sight for locals and visitors to cast their eyes, and ‘inter-nets,’ over.  And just as the skyline has grown dramatically, it appears the MEMS and sensors industry in China is on the rise too.

To view photos of the inaugural event, visit our Flickr page!

 

Industry Survey: The Southwest Center for Microsystems Education

Submitted by The Southwest Center for Microsystems Education

The Southwest Center for Microsystems Education, a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Center, is working on a project to better understand the current state of the micro and nanotechnology based industry technician workforce. Through this project, we aim to enable our center to best support Community Colleges’ efforts to start micro and nano technology programs that use SCME developed curricula.

One goal of this project will be a map of the related, hi-tech industries relative to their local Community Colleges.  We can then identify which regions our programs will make the greatest impact.  This allows us to advocate and support the adoption of micro and nano education by Community Colleges on behalf of their regional micro and nano and related industries.

Click here to view the last revision of the map and hiring data through 2012.

Our second goal will be a trend analysis of several mapped industries.  The SCME has divided the micro-nano related industries into several categories based on specialty and industry revenue.  We aim to identify at least ten companies in each bracket and to determine their workforce needs so that we can target our educational impact efforts to yield the best results for both industry and education!  These trends are presented to the Community Colleges near micro and nano tech related clusters, to provide a justification for incorporating microsystems based curricula into their programs.  This enables the SCME to distribute scarce educational resources into the educational institutions where their impact will be the highest, resulting in a more informed and capable workforce.

This is where we need your help!   As leaders in MEMS and related industries, please completing the survey found by clicking the following link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RK6TG55

Aggregate findings will be shared with you as well as information pertaining to educational resources that will assist you as you build your technician workforce pipeline and enable you to be in a better position to plan workforce growth.  Please consider collaborating with SCME to support our shared industrial workforce educational improvement goals!

 

Previous MIG Blog:

http://memsblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/survey-the-southwest-center-for-microsystems-education/

SEMICON West Wrap-Up

Chivonne & Monica say, "Thanks for a great time at SEMICON West!"

Chivonne & Monica say, “Thanks for a great time at SEMICON West!”

Two weeks ago, MIG had a wonderful time at SEMICON West, participating in a variety of constructive and gratifying industry-focused networking opportunities.  The Jam-packed event saw both MIG and its members engage in everything from demonstrations to cocktail receptions.

Over 30 member companies exhibited on the show floor, showing off their latest in equipment, materials, packaging solutions, design automation tools, foundry services, product development and R&D, while still more members busied themselves with private appointments off of the show floor.

MIG welcomed increased traffic at our booth, showing just how relevant MEMS has become, while reinforcing why an industry association is the key to connecting to partners to increase business opportunities. The MIG team enthusiastically spoke about the benefits of joining MEMS Industry Group while promoting our members to interested individuals.

SEMI hosted their traditional MEMS content entitled, “Next Generation MEMS”, on Tuesday, July 8th.  This content featured all MIG member and partner companies, including Yole Développement, Qulacomm, Silex Microsystems, GE Global Research, Si-Ware, SolMateS, NIST and EV Group. Shared content emphasized new challenges and opportunities for the MEMS supply chain to meet the needs of the expanding range of mobile devices, wearables and smart objects in the Internet of Things.

MIG also hosted its increasingly-popular cocktail party at Restaurant Lulu on Wednesday night, July 9th.  With over 300 people in attendance, it was THE place to be for MIG members to meet and network.

MIG would like to thank our Platinum Sponsor Plan Optik and Bronze Sponsors C2MI, Expertech and Oxford Instruments for making SEMICON West and the cocktail party possible. If you want to relive the memories or are curious about what you missed, be sure to check out photos from the event.

What’s Driving Wearables? MIG’s Karen Lightman Discusses in INNO Magazine

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MIG’s very own Karen Lightman recently graced the front page of IVAM Microtechnology Network‘s INNO magazine with her thorough discussion of MEMS and wearables.  In the piece, Karen talks about the US’ disposition to focus on wearables technology, while other areas of the world spend their time and resources elsewhere, and how we’re backing these efforts with crowdfunding support.  To read Karen’s thoughts on this explosive industry, head to ivam.de and download the pdf!