MEMS transform Mobile Devices

Mobile device sales have tapered in developed markets. To regenerate demand, vendors are turning to tiny, low-powered MEMS (Micro-electro-mechanical systems) devices that enable novel services on smaller energy efficient devices.

Outdoor navigation was one of the first successful mobile applications. MEMS will make indoor navigation possible.  GPS enabled navigation systems are not capable of sensing altitudes whether indoors or outdoors. Inside multi-storied buildings, people could be on any of the floors and they can’t be tracked unless their phones sense their altitude. Samsung has added in its Galaxy 3 and 4 models pressure sensors just for this purpose according to a report by IEEE.

For indoor navigation, pressure sensors work in conjunction with other sensors like the gyroscope and accelerometer that have been available in mobile phones but have barely been used. Individually, these sensors stream only one type of data feed—not enough to spawn very many applications. The accelerometer, for example, senses motion but cannot read direction or orientation.

French company, Movea, has developed, MotionCore, an API for Android ad Windows 8 devices that allows phones to connect with multiple sensors of any make according to another report of IEEE. Once the GPS signal is lost inside the building, users can easily lose their way inside a cavernous commercial building. With sensors, the phone will ask the user to enter data of his or her height. The accelerometer senses motion and calculates from the steps taken the distance covered. The gyroscope reads changes in direction and the pressure sensor the height. The combined data can be represented on the building map in order to direct the user to a meeting room or any other destination within the building.

Samsung’s Galaxy 4 is chockfull of sensors suggesting plans for a varied mixed of services not yet disclosed to the public. According to a report by Analog EE Times , the Samsung Galaxy 4 includes an accelerometer, RGB light, geomagnetic, proximity, gyroscope, barometer, gesture and even temperature and humidity varieties.

Projection of visual content is another area where MEMS has transformed mobile devices. Despite the richness of the visual content on mobile device, their users are stuck with a tiny screen as the only viewing option. Pico projectors, offered by companies like Mezmeriz, are tiny versions of room projectors. They can be embedded into mobile phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Beam and display visual content on any surface or even as a holographic image.  The MEMS device is a collection of microscopic mirrors, all part of a chipset that projects, a pixel at a time, the image.  The MEMS devices, by reducing the power consumption and the heat generation, are able to offer image quality of room projectors with a tiny fraction of their size.

MEMS devices overcome the limits of size, battery life and excessive heat of mobile devices and raise their utility with new services that will sustain and increase interest in mobile devices well into the future. They make mobile devices far more aware of their environment and translate the data into services that come in handy in the daily rhythm of life.


Note: This post was earlier contributed to the now defunct “The Mobility Hub” published by UBM Techweb.