By Tom Kevan, Desktop Engineering
It all started with smartphones and airbags. Design engineers began to integrate sensors in growing numbers into such systems to enable smarter performance. These applications mark the prelude to what Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, describes as a “sensory swarm” — a flood of heterogeneous sensors interfacing the cyber and physical worlds. By 2025, experts predict that the swarm could number as many as 7 trillion devices.
One of the first stages in the realization of this sensor-dominated world, the Internet of Things (IoT) requires technologies that can take on smaller form factors and operate on miserly power budgets. In their search to find sensing devices that can meet these requirements, designers have turned to micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS. Before they can take full advantage of the miniaturization the technology offers and expand its role in the marketplace, engineers must be able to bridge the gaps between the MEMS, analog and digital design worlds. To do this, they will require a new set of tools.