A Day without MEMS

By Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group
Originally posted on EE Times


MEMS devices are everywhere. They have permeated almost every aspect of our lives, forever altering our interaction with our digital environment. Unknowingly, we take them for granted. But what would happen if this tiny, robust, quiet, virtually invisible workhorse suddenly disappeared? Would we notice?

I wake up to the cacophonous sound of my children mutinying. The MEMS gyros in their video game controllers are defunct, so they can’t play Wii Dance Party or Super Mario Brothers. Normally, my BodyMedia LINK Armband registers my sleep—and can monitor my heart rate to show if it is soaring due to stress, or something good for me, like running, but my armband is dead in the water so I am forced to gauge my sleep deprivation and heart rate without any electronic support. I have a feeling that this going to be a really long day.

I check my smartphone for the weather report so I know what to expect for the day, but without the MEMS accelerometer for orientation, my screen constantly shifts between landscape and portrait, leaving me even more irritated. I’m late for an important meeting, so I jump into my car and program the GPS, which, without its MEMS-based inertial navigation system, makes location awareness totally unreliable. Looks like I am going to have to get out the map, if I even still have one in the glove compartment.

Did I mention that I’m late for my friend’s surprise 40th birthday party and I’m in charge of taking the photographs? But without those amazing accelerometers giving me image stabilization on my digital camera, my images will surely be blurry. MEMS, where are you?
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MEMS, the Cornerstone of Intelligent Connected Devices: Key Theme at MEMS Executive Congress US 2012

MEMS Suppliers and OEMs explore trends, technologies and market influences at MEMS Industry Group’s flagship business conference

MEMS Industry Group (MIG), a global industry organization with more than 150 member-companies and partners, wrapped up another successful MEMS Executive Congress® US 2012, November 7-8, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ. Fueled by double-digit growth rates and with an overall market estimated to reach US $12.5B by 2016 1, the micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) industry is realizing explosive growth in consumer electronics and mobile handsets, is strongly resurgent in automotive, and is emerging as a core enabling technology in biomedical/quality of life and diverse industrial applications, including energy and transportation. A record number of attendees at MIG’s eighth annual executive conference and networking event were treated to an inside look at what’s propelling the MEMS market, and MEMS-enabled devices, forward.

“We are seeing a massive proliferation of MEMS devices across a broad range of applications: from mobile handsets, tablets and pico projectors, to health/medical monitors, automotive safety systems, the smart grid, gaming, and robotics,” said Karen Lightman, managing director, MEMS Industry Group. “This combination of rapid growth and demand for smaller, lower-power MEMS has created challenges that our industry is solving. ‘Sensor fusion’ is easing the integration of MEMS in heterogeneous systems. MEMS suppliers are making lower-power devices and are packaging MEMS in IMUs that conserve board space. And the industry is coming together to address the critical issue of MEMS standardization. At MEMS Executive Congress, we dove collectively into these and other pressing issues.”

Opening Keynote Speaker Ajith Amerasekera, director, product acceleration, High Performance Analog Business, Texas Instruments, described the criticality of power to perpetual and seamless connectivity. “As a technology that supports ubiquitous intelligence, MEMS is helping to drive advances in electronic devices. At the same time, we must consider the demands of pervasive, connected electronic applications, in terms of energy generation and management. The MEMS industry, and the larger ecosystem of which it is a part, must rise to the challenges of integrated low-power sensor technology, smaller form-factor battery and storage technology, and true energy harvesting in order to sustain what will one day be trillions of connected devices.”

Closing Keynote Speaker Robert Brunner, founder, creative director and partner, Ammunition—the innovation firm behind products from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Beats by Dr. Dre, Adobe and Lark—offered MEMS Executive Congress attendees his inclusive philosophy of product design. “Everybody in this room is a designer,” said Brunner. “Great design is developed around a vision that manifests itself in something that people find not only useful, but desirable.” Brunner further hit a chord with the audience when he stated that “while technology enables, it is design that establishes.”

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