Preview Blog of MEMS Executive Congress Europe 2013

Amsterdam is THE place to be for the MEMS industry on 12 March!
Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

The keynote address at last year’s MEMS Executive Congress Europe stated: “MEMS is only limited by the imagination.” MEMS Industry Group (MIG) took that sentiment to heart, and organized a 2013 EU Congress chock full of interesting keynotes, panels, dialogue, and camaraderie.  We invited some of the top European companies using and commercializing MEMS to share their insight and imagination on the future of MEMS applications in consumer products, automotive, medical, and energy.  If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to register now.

On the morning of 12. March, our keynote speaker,  Ralf Schnupp, VP Segment Occupant Safety & Inertial Sensors of Continental Automotive GmbH, will present “Future Trends in Automotive — Smart Systems and Sensors.” I am extremely honored to have Dr. Schnupp as our keynote; he is extremely well respected in the industry and I know that he will open the Congress in a big and impressive way. In his keynote, he plans to present a vision of the future of automotive that is very macro/global in its perspective with a balance of “enhanced safety, environmental protection, increased connectivity, and affordable vehicles.”

After Dr. Schnupp’s keynote we will have a series of panels focused on MEMS in Consumer, Energy, Automotive and Medical. We’re changing things up a bit – making things a bit more Euro – I guess. I could write an entire blog just on the panels but I’d rather not – as I’m focusing mainly on the keynotes today….but let’s just say that if you’ve ever been to a Congress before, you know we have a “recipe” for success. This year is no different. We have put together a healthy mix of moderators and panelists sprinkled with a little bit of controversy to make things interesting.  Each panelist will bring his own unique perspective  on the critical issues affecting the business of MEMS.

It’s been said that Europe provides a better environment for spawning MEMS innovation. So I look forward to hearing from our panelists who are a great mix of end-users, academics, analysts and industry leaders who will share their visions on the success and remaining challenges to MEMS commercialization success. Some of the inventive topics our panels and keynotes will address are:

  • Standardization has played an important role in propelling growth in the consumer electronics industry – but what about MEMS? What progress has been made and what challenges remain? 
  • What role will MEMS play in the car of the future and how might sensor fusion drive new applications? 
  • How do MEMS advance quality of life now and in the future, from chronic disease management to sports rehab?
  • How are MEMS helping alternative energy adoption in Europe and when will MEMS be commercialized in energy harvesting for smaller consumer applications?

Our afternoon keynote will be Renzo Dal Molin, Advanced Research Director SORIN CRM within Cardiac Rhythm Management business unit, SORIN Group. Dr. Dal Molin is again an extremely well known and respected leader in the field of cardiac medical research and technology.  Dr. Dal Molin’s keynote is entitled “Vision for Implanted Medical Devices Healthcare Solutions and Technical Challenges” and will review how the market for microelectronic implants is growing phenomenally. He will share his vision for this industry and the main drivers of growth, as well as the challenges that lay ahead. I am sure our heads will be buzzing after his keynote and the conversation will take us all the way to our dinner at a place that I’ve always wanted to visit: the Heineken Brewery. Oh yes, we are having a strolling dinner at the world-famous Heineken Experience, where, as I have found myself saying “they serve food to accompany the beer.” We will have fun. That is for sure.

I am obviously giving you just a sneak peak – so for complete details, you need to check out our full agenda that begins on 11. March with a dessert reception. Yes, it might have been the MIG staff’s idea to have plenty of desserts on hand (perhaps you’ve heard we like chocolate?); but we realized after last year’s inaugural EU Congress that most of our attendees were hanging out in the conference hotel bar anyhow, so we might as well make it an official party.

But back to what makes the Congress so unique – and why we’ve successfully held the US version for so many years (it will be nine years, this November 7-8 in Napa!) and why we are returning to Europe for a second year. MEMS Executive Congress by definition is not a technical conference. It is not a tradeshow. This is a business-based, senior-level, executive conference where commercialization, revenue, and success stories dominate the discussion. As Rich Duncome of HP stated a few years back after delivering his keynote, the Congress is like “networking on steroids.”

In my very humble (and oh so slightly biased) opinion, there is only one place in Europe where global industry luminaries will be talking about where MEMS technology is growing, based on real experiences and real time data.  And there is only one place where you can meet them.  This compelling one-day event is a MUST for entire the MEMS supply-chain.  And oh, have you registered yet for The MEMS Executive Congress Europe?  You don’t want to miss it.

MEMS and Concussions

By Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

I am a mom, first and foremost. Right now I am an angry mom, because I have a daughter with a concussion, caused by an accident that was no fault of her own. And because I am a mom who works with MEMS
(MicroElectroMechanicalSystems), I have started thinking about how MEMS might have prevented, as well as detected her concussion sooner.

First let me back up and tell you the story of what happened because I think it’ll help you understand my frustration. I have been a skier most of my life, and since we started skiing as a family three years ago, my two girls (ages eight and 11) have become great skiers, practicing safe and controlled skiing. And yes, the whole family wears helmets.

Recently we went skiing in Western PA. And while I will spare you the gruesome details, as you can see from the picture I am sharing with you, our ski trip did not end well. Basically my eight-year-old daughter was hit by the equivalent of a 225-pound out-of-control freight train on skis, as he snowballed down the mountain and took out my daughter. Now my daughter has near-constant headaches, is tired most of the day, can’t read without pain and will likely miss up to a month of school.

Ski patrol did a good job of assessing her on the mountain, and on the day of the collision she showed no signs of concussion. Her symptoms only started the next day when she fell asleep in class ten minutes into the school day. Only later did I learn that this is quite common, complicating the detection and diagnosis of concussion. In fact there is a lot of confusion when it comes to concussion and that’s what got me thinking about MEMS in many ways.

Accident Prevention – MEMS Motion Sensors

First I started thinking about the idiots that caused the accident. (There were two of them who collided and then one took out my daughter.) With MEMS motion sensor technology like that developed by Xsens and Movea, I envision myself as “vigilante ski mom” seeing lunatic skiers or inebriated skiers. When I see them, I would tag them with a motion sensor that can recognize gestures and would wirelessly send data to ski patrolalerting them when the skier is exhibiting inexperienced skier gestures and on a double-black diamond.

Watch this Xsens video to get a sense of what I am talking about. Then watchthis video of Movea’s motion sensor technology featured by Venture Beat at CES to see why I think this could work – maybe even by putting sensors into ski lift tickets. Think about it, when you buy a lift ticket, you agree to the “skier responsibility code” – which means you will ski at your level and won’t mow down other skiers; MEMS technology developed by Movea and Xsens could help enforce it.

Concussion Detection and MEMS 3-Axis, High-G MEMS Accelerometers

Then I rememberedthe fantastic panel I moderated at Design West 2012 that featured one of my favorite MEMS gurus, Rob O’Reilly of Analog Devices. Rob played a pivotal role in the Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) System with ADI accelerometers inside, used to record on-field head impact exposure during helmeted activities, part of anongoing study with the National Institutes of Health that began in 2002. The work that Rob and his colleagues at Analog did to better understand the impact on the head (not just to the helmet) has led to changes in many sports including hockey, lacrosse and football as well as legislative changes for states such as Massachusetts. But the challenge is still diagnosing concussionafter the hit.

And here’s a not-so-fun fact:  Did you know that after football players, girls’ soccer players are second most likely to get concussions? I am not sure how we’re going to help those soccer players, but with enough industry ingenuity, I am hopeful that we will figure something out.

So again I go to MEMS to help detect a “concussion-worthy hit to the head.” Thankfully there are a few examples where we are seeing an adoption of MEMS technology in sports equipment, including football helmets and mouthguards,such as X2 Impact and i1 Biometrics.The I1 Biometrics’mouthguard is state-of-the-art because it provides a “solution from inside the players head from the inside out” through a multi-function approach: impact detection; data transition; notification and alerts (straight to mom’s smartphone);  and the athlete assessment, by which the system provides tools to assess the athlete’s ability to return to play in a game (or ski). Assessment of injury, post-impact is really critical, but you need to have a baseline upon which to compare it in order to really determine the damage to the brain.

Baseline assessment is key, and fortunately live minutes away from a world-class concussion center, theUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program; these are the guys who took care of the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby when he had his concussion two years ago. The UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program pioneered ImPACT™ (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing)–“the mostwidely used neurocognitive testnow mandated by the NFL, NHL, and roughly 6,000 high schools and colleges in the United States.”My daughter is now under treatment by these guys and had a baseline ImPACT test.This is important because statistically she is now more likely to get another concussion and it’ll help us track her progress as she regains her brain function.

Now it’s Your Turn

But isn’t a shame she had the concussion in the first place and that it was untreated until 24 hours after the accident? I just keep thinking that with MEMS technologies I’ve described in this blog, that NEXT TIME a similar situation might not result in another concussion. So I encourage you to visit the hyperlinks in this blog – do the research – mine that swath of land that is an opportunity to help find ways to use MEMS’ enabling technology to embed it into ski tickets or workout gear or ski helmets.Let’s reduce the chance of injury in skiing or other sports you love; especially for children. Let’s reduce the chance of freight-trains taking out eight-year olds on ski mountains, and let’s improve the world through MEMS. Let’s find ways, through MEMS to prevent injuries and then once in an accident to assess and detect injuries much faster and accurately.Will you join me?

MEMS Enabling a Health & Medical Revolution

By Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

One of the most exciting things lately about being director of the MEMS Industry Group (MIG) is feeling the slow and powerful build of momentum that precedes a flurry of wins for MEMS technology in health and medical applications. Someday soon many consumers will use MEMS to monitor and maintain their health on a daily basis.

What’s driving this revolution in health and medical devices? Beyond the prevalence of wireless networks — which is a key enabler — there is a convergence of factors that bring MEMS into this space. MEMS miniaturizes, and it improve safety and reliability. It also provides an integrated solution. Alone on an armband or embedded in a T-shirt, sensors are just a bunch of sad, lonely chips. But wirelessly connect these sensors (including MEMS) via Bluetooth to a cloud computing network, as well as to social networks such as Facebook, and these sensors open up a huge world of opportunities for health and medical providers, designers, integrators, suppliers, and innovators.

Consumers will be the winners here, with more choices and the ability to monitor and maintain their own health, medical treatment, and drug therapies. They will demand non-intrusive monitoring, which is the main reason that the market for wearable wireless sensors (including MEMS) is expected to grow to 400 million devices by 2014.

The time is right for MEMS. The top two healthcare issues in the US are controllable by lifestyle changes (Type II diabetes and heart disease). These are lifestyle changes that consumers could and will control through intelligent sensors that give them reliable, usable information on which their doctors can also rely. And while they may not know it, by demanding accurate, real-time diagnostics and simpler dosing — while caring more about their overall health — consumers are inadvertently creating a path for MEMS to play a bigger role in their suite of medical solutions.

There are already numerous MEMS-based products that blur the line between the consumer and medical markets. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

  • Bodymedia FIT System acts as a “personal GPS” empowering consumers to monitor their overall fitness — measuring the intensity of their workouts and also the quality of sleep, an important factor in weight loss.
  • LumoBack, a wearable device that uses sensor and biofeedback to empower consumers to improve their posture, reduce back pain, and improve their overall quality of life.
  • Proteus Digital Health Feedback System gives consumers the ability to monitor and manage medication and physiologic data.

As we forge ahead with wirelessly connected health and medical apps, we must also grapple with medical privacy. Groups like the XPRIZE Foundation, which is helping lead this revolution of wireless digital, MEMS-enabled health and medical through their Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE and Nokia Sensing X Challenge, is embracing this issue. We also need you — the design community — to come up with the next new application of a health/medical product that may not cure cancer, but will help a cancer patient manage her pain as she suffers through radiation treatments. Or maybe you’ll design ______ (fill in the blank with your imagination and your engineering talent).