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MEMS and More: Sensor Technologies that will Drive the Internet of Things | Cypress Semiconductor

MEMS and More: Sensor Technologies that will Drive the Internet of Things

MEMS – or Micro electro-mechanical systems – are a very tiny component, literally. The low-power sensors are just a thousandth of an inch in size, and chances are you didn’t hear much about them in all of the news that came out of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.

Still, they’ve been called “the unsung heroes many of our favorite and beloved technologies” by the Mashable tech blog, which also acknowledged how MEMS are “particularly critical for smart home devices and the Internet of Things.”

Ah, the Internet of Things. Certainly you heard plenty about that at CES this year. After all, 2015 is already being heralded as “The Year of the Thing,” with vast projections for the number of connected devices ballooning to into the billions over the next five years.

That’s where tools like Broadcom’s WICED™ Sense™ development kit become mission critical to a new wave of developers. The kit, which went to market about six months ago, is outfitted with Broadcom’s WICED™ Smart low-power Bluetooth chip, the company’s Bluetooth 4.1-compatible WICED™ Smart software stack and, of course, MEMS sensors – a gyroscope, accelerometer, eCompass, as well as sensors that measure pressure, humidity and temperature.

The WICED™ Sense™ kit, which sells for $20, gives developers a low-cost, fast entry point into the world of IoT development, providing them with the tools they need to give everyday objects new utility by enabling them to connect to the Internet and each other.  Broadcom’s Sid Shaw, director of product marketing for Bluetooth, shows the kit in the video below:

The development kit, which only takes only minutes to set up, gives software and hardware developers the ability to create fast prototypes in part because the software is already pre-programmed to pair the WICED™ Sense™ tag with a smartphone app so that the MEMS sensors can immediately start gathering critical data.

“In wearable devices and IoT applications such as smart homes, buildings, cities and vehicles, [MEMS] usually form a sensing cluster around the application processor, feeding it with every sensory change taking place,” Stephen Whalley, chief strategy officer at the MEMS Industry Group told EE Times earlier this month. “That data is then processed using algorithms to make sense of it so that humans or machines can react appropriately.”

At CES, considered to be the place where up-and-coming technologies take center stage, there was a dedicated conference track about MEMS that focused on low-power sensors for wearables and smart home devices. Uses for MEMS are expected to grow in the coming years, with market researcher IHS Inc. projecting the market for MEMS to grow to $214 million in 2018, up from up from $43 million in 2013.

Since its debut last summer, Broadcom’s WICED™ Sense™ development kit has landed in the hands of nearly 10,000 developers and hobbyists “who are doing really tremendous things with it,” Shaw said. “Imagine how much more useful connected gadgets can become when they can gather environmental data and make sense of it for us.”

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