Sensors Expo and Conference Showcases Latest Development in Embedded Technologies

By Ilene Eng

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Touch screens, face recognition, and autonomous vehicles are some of the more familiar ways we understand how sensors work. The technology can come in many forms, and some of these are easily overlooked.

As the largest of its kind in the nation, the 34th Sensors Expo and Conference attracted 9,000-10,000 people across different industries. Over 400 exhibitors came to the autonomous vehicle, medical, and embedded technologies expo and conference at the San Jose Convention Center, June 25-27.

Many activities can be enhanced with increased sensitivity. Magnets can be used on the road for autonomous driving; drones can be guided with one-centimeter accuracy; and enhanced speech recognition can record only your voice, even with the blender switched on.

This 3 mm by 3 mm pressure sensor can be used for fitness watches, and to measure blood pressure. (Jeffery Chen/NTD)
These plastic road flares are a safer alternative to magnesium road flares where there are gas leaks at an accident site. (Jeffery Chen/NTD)

An integral part of sensitivity is IoT, or internet of things. It is how objects and data can be connected through the internet without person-to-person interaction. According to Charlene Soucy, senior marketing and show director, a key highlight of the event is embedding cutting-edge technology into devices.

“For a long time, sensors and embedded technology and systems have been working together and sensors are an integral part of embedded systems,” Soucy said.

For example, one company shared their latest development with pressure sensors. The 3 mm by 3 mm chips measure altitude changes of about 4 inches. One use is in fitness watches.

“If you’re going up the hill you’re burning more calories. If you’re going down the hill, you’re burning less. So this provides more accuracy for the fitness watches,” said Pete Smith, senior manager of TE Connectivity.

Another exhibitor at the show, South Coast AQMD from Southern California company uses sensors to measure air pollution. “We have low-cost sensors mounted in this duct that transports polluted outside air, through the car for the sensors to measure,” said Wilton Mui, air quality specialist.

Sensors can also measure an object’s distance from an origin using time, and map it out in color using a method called “time of flight.” The closer an object gets to the sensor, the more red or purple it is. The colors gradually change from red to orange to blue the further a way an object gets. This kind of technology has been utilized in robotics.

There were also simpler sensors at the show, such as battery-operated electronic road flares that can replace the traditional magnesium road flares placed next to accident sites.

“They all talk to each other as well. It’s an intelligent device in that when you turn it on, they sequence in order,” said Dennis Rex, franchise sales director at Chip 1 Exchange.

One knob can detect the location of a magnet. It can be used to turn on the air conditioning in the car, or used in other consumer applications like washing machines.

“As you rotate the knob, the LEDs will show the orientation of the magnet. So the blue points represent the North Pole, and the red points represent the South Pole of the magnet,” said Leonardo Machado, a field applications engineer at Melexis.

This is the fourth year the event has been held in San Jose. People continue to attend, with the hope of leaving an impression on Silicon Valley.