CES 2015: Data Analytics Lend Wireless Sensors Power to Change Lives


By David Allan, President, Virtuix Inc.

Walking the aisles at CES, you are hard-pressed to find a single product that doesn’t contain at least one sensor. The latest iPhones add a barometric sensor to at least a dozen others. By some predictions, a trillion-sensor world is not far off. Yet what benefits, really, will this ubiquity of sensors deliver? We put this question, and others, to the speakers at the Sensors and MEMS Technology conference.

To Karen Lightman, Executive Director of the MEMS Industry Group, the answer lies in pairing sensors with data analytics. She notes that “MEMS and sensors are already fulfilling the promise to make the world a better place, from airbags and active rollover protection in our cars to the smart toaster that ensures my daughter’s morning bagel won’t be burnt. By combining sensors with data analytics, we can increase that intelligence exponentially.”

An example is biometric measurements, which traditionally suffer from undersampling. Your doctor checks your pulse or blood pressure just once in a while, whereas a typical day may see wild fluctuations. David He, Chief Scientist at Quanttus Inc., predicts a convergence between consumer and clinical use of wearable sensors. Noting that cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions often go undiagnosed, he foresees ICU-quality wearable sensors that measure your vital signs as you undergo daily activities, relying on enormous datasets to detect problematic patterns. “While everyone is looking for the killer app in wearables,” he urges, “we should be looking for the un-killer app.”


Date analytics paired with ubiquitous sensors promise to improve and even save lives (Image courtesy of Quanttus Inc.)

Ben Waber, CEO of Sociometric Solutions, puts sensor data to a radically different use. His firm outfits employees of large companies with sensor-equipped badges that track their interactions. “In any industry the interaction between employees is the most important thing that happens at work,” he told CNN. His badges use motion sensors to follow users as they mix with others in the office and to monitor their posture while seated (slouching suggests low energy). A microphone measures tone of voice, rapidity of speech, and whether a person dominates meetings or allows others to speak in turn.

Waber claims employees can use the results to improve performance and job satisfaction. “You can see the top performers and change your behavior accordingly, to be happier and more productive. In a retail store, you might see that you spend 20% of your time talking to customers, but the guy who makes the most commission spends 30%.” He adds, “I can point to thousands of people who say they like their jobs better.”

Steven LeBoeuf, president of Valencell, points to a problem he calls “death by discharge,” meaning the tendency of novel wearables to “land in the sock drawer before insights can be made” because users tire of keeping them charged. His firm promotes a category he calls “hearables”: sensors added to earphones—powered from a standard jack—that measure pulse, breathing, blood pressure, and even blood-oxygen saturation, all from gossamer-thin vessels on the ear called “arterioles.” Yet measurements alone, he cautions, fall short without comparative analytics. “Human subject testing is a different animal altogether…extensive human subject validation is required for accurate biometric sensing.”

Data is moving from physical to mental. Rana el Kaliouby’s company, Affectiva, combines sensor data with analytics to monitor emotional states, detecting stress, loneliness, depression, and productivity. She foresees a sensor-driven “emotion economy” where devices act on our feelings. She told The New Yorker, “We put together a patent application for a system that could dynamically price advertising depending on how people responded to it.”

Indeed, patent filings abound for mood-sensing devices. Anheuser-Busch’s application for an “intelligent beverage container,” notes that without it, sports fans at games “wishing to use their beverage containers to express emotion are limited to, for example, raising a bottle to express solidarity with a team.”

Now stonily indifferent to our feelings, our devices may acquire an almost-human sympathy. “I think that, ten years down the line,” predicts Affectiva’s Kaliouby, “we won’t remember what it was like when we couldn’t just frown at our device, and our device would say, ‘Oh, you didn’t like that, did you?’”

MEMS the Word – January Newsletter


Karen Lightman

Several years ago I coined the phrase “MEMS frickin’ everywhere.” I shared my vision for MEMS enabling a smarter and better world. This was before the term Internet of Things (IoT) had taken hold. My catchphrase got me into a bit of trouble with those offended by my use of a modified expletive as well as skeptics of the potential of MEMS.

Today that vision of MEMS everywhere seems passé and so obvious. That’s because the outlook for MEMS and sensors has never looked brighter – this was incredibly apparent to me at the 2015 International CES.

At this year’s CES, in addition to hosting the Sensors Marketplace on the show floor and hosting a booth with several of our member companies, MEMS Industry Group (MIG) hosted its third annual conference at CES. In 2013 we were invited by CEA to host a 1.5 hour conference; in 2014 it doubled to three hours and this year we filled an entire day of content plus a cocktail party. Some might say that MIG is growing as fast as the MEMS and sensors industry it represents!

Read the rest of Karen’s letter here!


Kaplan Breyer Schwarz & Ottesen

Q: It’s our round – what are you having?

A: A hot dark chocolate please – maybe with an amaretto shot.  Dark chocolate is known to be an antioxidant.  Less well known, perhaps, is that it also stimulates brain activity.  A little alcohol tossed in can also serve to improve creativity (and lighten the mood) – if the studies are to be believed.

Furthermore, it provides a reason for whipped cream!

Q: A great picture is worth a thousand words — please show us yours.

A: An early integrated MEMS device. Developed in 1987 by Bell Labs scientists (including James Walker), such surface-micromachined polysilicon mechanical structures were presented at Transducers ‘87 and also published in Newsweek magazine. They formed the basis for many fundamental studies on MEMS technological issues, such in-use friction and wear, and the impact of extended HF exposure on silicon devices.

Read the rest of the KBSO Law Member Spotlight!

Early Bird Pricing ends February 9! 
MIG Members receive a significant discount.Sponsorship Opportunities are still available!
For companies who wish to stand out as leaders along the MEMS and sensors supply chain in Europe, sponsorship of the MEMS Executive Congress Europe® provides the best chance all year for exposure to the global leaders in MEMS and sensors in one place. Sponsorship of MEMS Executive Congress Europe® highlights your company as a provider of solutions for the business issues that Congress executives come to address.

Keynote Speakers

Franz Laermer, Vice President, Corporate Sector Research and Advanced Engineering, Microsystems Technologies, Bosch

Claus Nielsen, Business Development Manager, Health & Care Technologies DELTA

Accepting abstracts for the always interesting, much anticipated, highly press-engaging MEMS and Sensors Technology Showcase at MEMS Executive Congress® Europe.
Click here for info and to submit!
Deadline for submissions is January 30.

Early bird registration is now open – limited time 30% off!

MIG members receive an additional discount on exhibit space and $100 off Gold or Main conference passes or $50 off MIG’s Pre-conference Symposium.


Mobile sensor deployment: making the whole greater than the sum of its’ parts.

Hosted by MEMS Industry Group and QuickLogic

Thursday, 29 January 2015 11:30 am Eastern Standard Time

In 2014, it is anticipated that 658 million sensor hubs will be sold worldwide with that number growing to 1.3 billion by 2017 (IHS Technology, April 2014). Impressive numbers for what could certainly still be considered a fledgling market. This growth is being driven by the availability of low cost sensor technology and the desire for always-on sensing allowing mobile devices to understand user context and eventually anticipate user needs.

Register for the webinar here.

IoT: Standards & Testing, MEMS & Sensors

An interactive Webinar with MEMS Industry Group and IEEE Standards Association

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 11:00 am Eastern Standard Time

This is the first in a series of webinars that will address issues related to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Connectedness. In this webinar, viewers will gain an understanding of:

  • Why IoT, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and Sensors need common specifications and standards
  • The role of interoperability and testing when it comes to IoT
  • What the MEMS Industry Group (MIG) & IEEE Standards Association are doing to facilitate IoT Connectedness

Register now at the Webinar Site!


March 9-10, 2015
MEMS Executive Congress® Europe
Copenhagen, Denmark

May 6-7, 2015
MEMS Technical Congress®
Cambridge, MA


January 18 – 22, 2015
2015 MEMS Portugal

January 27 – 30, 2015
M2M Evolution Conference & Expo
Karen Lightman will be speaking in two panels:MEMS and Sensor Trends and Challenges to Scale the Mobile Health Industry, and One M2M, IIC and the Quest to be Different Standards

January 28, 2015
IHE NA Connectathon Conference

Virtuix became a member during the 2015 International CES®. They created an incredible virtual reality gaming experience, which dominated the gaming news at 2015 CES®. We’re thrilled to welcome them aboard!

The Institute of Microelectronics (IME), is a research institute of the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). We’re excited to have them join the MIG member team!

Wearable Devices and the Search for the Holy Grail at 2015 International CES®

By Karen Lightman, Executive Director, MEMS Industry Group

Several years ago I coined the phrase “MEMS frickin’ everywhere.” I shared my vision for MEMS enabling a smarter and better world. This was before the term Internet of Things (IoT) had taken hold. My catchphrase got me into a bit of trouble with those offended by my use of a modified expletive as well as skeptics of the potential of MEMS.

Today that vision of MEMS everywhere seems passé and so obvious. That’s because the outlook for MEMS and sensors has never looked brighter – this was incredibly apparent to me at the 2015 International CES.

At this year’s CES, in addition to hosting the Sensors Marketplace on the show floor and hosting a booth with several of our member companies, MEMS Industry Group (MIG) hosted its third annual conference at CES. In 2013 we were invited by CEA to host a 1.5 hour conference; in 2014 it doubled to three hours and this year we filled an entire day of content plus a cocktail party. Some might say that MIG is growing as fast as the MEMS and sensors industry it represents!

2015 has already been heralded as the year of the wearable device and MIG chose wearables and the MEMS/sensors supply chain as the theme for our conference. We packed an impressive lineup of featured speakers and panelists. There have been several stories already posted by the press on the conference track as well as our exhibit so I won’t retell the already told. Instead I’d like to share with you my favorite quotes, moments and impressions from the entire show.

What’s my number one? Something that I’ve known for a while but now really believe is the HOLY GRAIL to both the future success of wearables and IoT/Everything: POWER.  Power reduction and management through sensor fusion, power generation through energy harvesting as well as basic battery longevity. It became very clear from conversations at the MIG conference as well as in talking with folks on the show floor that the issue of power is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing us now.

MIG’s recently announced Accelerated Innovation Community (AIC), an open source algorithm library for sensor fusion, is a good first step. AIC can help address the issue of sensor fusion to enable more powerful and power-efficient wearables and IoT/E. It has become clear that as an industry we’ve got to do more to address the issue of sensor fusion as well as power reduction, management and creation.  In order to be successful we need more folks onboard to participate in AIC as well as spread the word to end-users and integrators. Won’t you join our merry band of sensor fusion evangelists?

Favorite quote? It comes from David He, Chief Scientific Officer, Quanttus, when he described his company’s goal to find the “unkiller app” by enabling clinically accurate, contextual and continuous data that can empower people to truly take control of their health and yes, save lives. At our conference, David unveiled Quanttus’ never-seen-before health analytics that mapped the blood pressure of 200 people, which gave the audience a glimpse of the future described by Dr. Eric Topol in his book The Creative Destruction of Medicine. As someone who has been at the mercy of out-of-touch doctors who controlled my cancer treatment/healthcare, I welcome the day when I have a wearable device enabled by MEMS and sensors along with data analytics that gives me smart, useful and actionable data to help me guide and manage my own healthcare, thank you very much.

Lastly, being at CES this year reiterated my love and affection for MIG members. From the members who have been with MIG since its foundation in 2001 like Intel to our newest member, Virtuix (whose President joined MIG only minutes after speaking at MIG’s CES conference), MIG members totally rock. It was a pleasure and a delight to be in their company for one week, even at the world’s most insane tradeshow (because it’s in Vegas, after all).

MIG is a growing industry association in a growing industry. I’m confident that together, we can create a world that has MEMS and sensors frickin’ everywhere, but only if we continue to address the remaining challenges to commercialization. Won’t you join us?

Indoor Nav Goes Hybrid

By George Hsu, president and CEO, PNI Sensor

Chicago O’Hare Airport has 17 different Starbucks. The line at the Starbucks nearest your departure gate is startlingly long – so what’s the quickest way to find another Starbucks? There’s an interactive map of O’Hare Airport, complete with all the Starbucks, but since you’re so caffeine-deprived, you’re having a difficult time reading it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have step-by-step directions to the two closest Starbucks?

Or what if you’re walking around a massive shopping mall and are looking for a particular store that you know is having a sale? Indoor navigation on your smartphone or your smartwatch would allow you to find a particular restaurant or store in real-time, relative to your current location.

Smartphone and wearable designers want to deliver more accurate indoor navigation to consumers, in large part because of demand from carriers and data aggregators (like Google) who will work to develop new revenue streams enabled by indoor navigation.

While some level of indoor navigation exists, at least in some places, current solutions leave much to be desired. Google Maps and GPS-enabled devices and smartphones have enjoyed tremendous adoption and are considered indispensable tools by consumers. However, it has been challenging to deliver the same functionality indoors. GPS has historically been the most prominent positioning technology in the outdoor environment but it cannot provide adequate positioning indoors, with its weak signals unable to penetrate walls effectively. This is a major deficiency since mobile devices and smartphones are typically used inside rather than in outdoor locations.

Furthermore, there is a strong impetus to enable services that empower consumers while also providing commercial monetization opportunities. The ability to acquire accurate, granular indoor location data is poised to open up huge opportunities in a variety of markets such as proximity-based mobile advertising, augmented reality, retail, healthcare and public services.

Wi-Fi triangulation and Bluetooth beacons are existing technologies that are competing to enable indoor navigation. While several competing standards are deployed in a few showcase locations — a handful of airports, shopping malls and exhibition centers — Wi-Fi and Bluetooth beacons are difficult to roll out in a ubiquitous manner because they require:

·         Infrastructure set-up with cooperation from venue owners, and timely updates about the location of each access point/beacon

·         Handset Bluetooth and Wi-Fi that are always on, which rapidly drains power and inconveniences users

Each of these technologies also faces significant challenges in terms of accuracy. Specifically, Wi-Fi location technology is accurate to approximately 5 to 30 meters or more depending on Wi-Fi signal attenuation, which varies in the presence of people and objects and the location of the Wi-Fi access point. In order to achieve an approximate 5m level accuracy, the precise location of each access point must be known, and a fingerprint database developed. Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are able to achieve at best 10 meters accuracy from LTE diverse location determination and delivery capabilities. In a perfect implementation, Nokia’s High Accuracy Indoor Positioning (HAIP) Bluetooth can be accurate to about 0.5m – 1m, but will require substantial modification to current Bluetooth 4.0 chips and significant investment in Bluetooth beacons.

While ~10 meter accuracy is sufficient for basic store-level location tracking, the market will ultimately demand sub-1m accuracy where one can identify if a consumer is at a specific position, such as in front of a particular display or aisle. Hence to date, rapid rollout of value-added indoor services has been inaccurate, delayed and spotty. Consequently, both new use cases and uptake by consumers has been slow.

Given the limitations of existing solutions, what type of approach could produce the highest-accuracy indoor navigation today?

Wi-Fi, cellular and pedestrian dead reckoning (PDR) using MEMS motion sensors in mobile devices (namely sensor fusion of gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetic sensors) comprise a hybrid approach. In fact, ABI Research projects that by 2014, hybrid solutions (with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and sensor fusion) will have already surpassed standalone indoor location technologies on smartphones, with Wi-Fi and sensor fusion hybrid solutions reaching over 900 million units in 2018. Accurate, low-power sensor fusion (including key algorithms for PDR) are essential to implementing this hybrid indoor navigation approach.

PNI Sensor has developed the PDR portion of the hybrid solution. Its sensor fusion technology combines data from multiple sensors intelligently, correcting for the deficiencies of those individual sensors in order to track position accurately (down to 1m), either with or without the presence of infrastructure or other complementary positioning technologies.

With PNI’s solution embedded as a motion coprocessor in your cell phone, getting straight to that latte is a lot closer than you think.

Check out our video for more information:


Visit us at 2015 CES:

Please visit PNI in the MIG booth at the 2015 International CES. You’ll find us in Tech West, Sands Expo, Level 2, Booth 72032 (January 6-9, 2015 during 2015 CES exhibition hours).

Design Challenges for Wearables

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in ecnmag

This holiday season, most of my friends/family received some form of wearable device as a gift. Even my 84-year-old dad is joining the wearable bandwagon and is finally giving himself what should probably be termed the original “wearable” — a hearing aid.

As executive director of MEMS Industry Group (MIG), the trade association advancing MEMS and sensors across global markets, I, too, have a sensors- and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)-laden wearable device that silently sits on my wrist and somewhat accurately counts my steps and tracks my sleeping habits. I long for the day when I can have a wearable that is seamless and elegant as it counts my calories (in and out), accurately assesses my health, and which harnesses energy from the vibrations created through my own movement.

So how far off is this wearable Utopia? To get a reading on what it takes to design wearables for consumer success, I asked a few of the experts in the MEMS/sensors supply chain who eat/sleep/pray in the wearable device tech world and will be joining me at MIG’s MEMS and sensors conference on wearables at the 2015 International CES on January 6.

Wearable devices represent one of the fastest-growing market segments in consumer electronics. They rely heavily on technology from the MEMS/sensors supply chain in order to track activity, interpret motion and augment reality. But designing for these space-constrained devices — which must be low power and increasingly packed with functionality (we’re way beyond just step-counting these days) — is not without its challenges.

Tim Saxe, CTO of QuickLogic, believes that “the top issues depend on whether the developer is thinking of a wearable device without a display or one with a display…For devices without a display, the top challenge is how to get really, really long battery life. The goal seems to be six months minimum, with one year preferred.”

Saxe elaborated that “for devices with a display, the challenge is control, and people want non-touch ways to control the device. How to make this ‘intuitive’ i.e. convenient, repeatable and easily discoverable, is an emerging area so people have lots of ideas and need to quickly try them out and refine them.” For me this brings visions of Google Glass vs. Jawbone UP vs. Apple iWatch: Everyone is placing bets on what form factor and design will win this race. And it reinforces my belief that for a wearable to be successful in the marketplace, the user needs to be unaware that he/she is actually wearing it.

Several folks pointed out that a key issue for wearables is that each time a user has to take them off or can’t use them is a chance for the user to lose interest. At this point, that device could “end up in the sock drawer,” said Dr. Steven LeBouef, president of Valencell.

Seppo Nissilä, CEO of SilverBlip shared with me his list of pain points, which include technical challenges. “Low-power and small form factor do not happen without many design rounds,” said Nissilä. He also called out a warning shot regarding validation/compatibility/IP challenges “that are often underestimated in small companies and big ones, too.”

When I asked David Allan, president of Virtuix, what keeps him up at night, he said, “In the MEMS field, the mobile phone is the ‘big boss.’ Yet most startups aren’t designing phones. When you try to design something different, like wearable motion sensors for virtual reality, you immediately hit a roadblock: the fusion software that comes free with sensor devices caters to the needs of the phone. It fails to capture complex translational and rotational motions that differ from typical phone applications. So you need to customize the fusion. But then, you find out that custom software costs maybe six or even seven figures to develop…and you’re stuck. We got lucky and found ex-InvenSense engineers to develop our fusion. But many startups, lacking contacts in the sensor industry, won’t know how to proceed. One encouraging development on this front: MIG’s open-source algorithm cooperative, the Accelerated Innovation Community (AIC), which includes an open-source C library for 3-, 6- and 9-axis sensor fusion.”

Becky Oh, board member of PNI Sensor Corporation, identified power consumption as one of the most pressing challenges of designing wearables. “As space-constrained devices, batteries must be as small as possible – so every microamp of power consumption is critical.”

And Oh believes that sensor fusion is a big part of the solution to the power issue. “Since these devices will use sensors for always-on monitoring, there need to be hardware and processors that are optimized specifically for sensors and sensor fusion algorithms, such as intelligent sensor hubs or sensor coprocessors. These sensor coprocessors have architectures that are optimized for sensor-related algorithms and interfaces, making them much lower power than a general purpose processor.

The second major challenge, according to Oh, is value added data analysis. “At the hardware level, capturing the raw data accurately is key, but in order to achieve this in the design phase, you need hardware development platforms that are form-factor ready — essentially requiring you to build the wearable before feasibility studies are completed.”

Valencell’s LeBoeuf had another major challenge in mind, one that relates closely to his company’s biometric sensor technology: “The advent of I2C MEMS and sensor solutions made our biometric signal extraction technology a lot more scalable for OEMs. But I2C optical sensor solutions were geared towards proximity detection — not biometric sensing. For this reason, additional microprocessor resources were required to make up for suboptimal sensing — draining battery life and limiting our market opportunities.”

LeBoeuf ultimately overcame this problem “by working with silicon solution providers early in the process, teaching them what changes needed to be made in order to keep accuracy high while maintaining high battery life.”

Though these challenges may seem insurmountable, on the bright side, it’s clear that my colleagues are well positioned to both name and address them. My guess is that in the next year or two, we’ll see some of those seamless, elegant wearable devices packed with functionality that I now dream of.