The Internet of Things (IoT) already influences all the industries in the world. Wireless sensor networks as an enabling technology for IoT therefore becomes used in virtually all areas. Fraunhofer IIS is one among the world’s leading institute on cutting edge integrated circuit technology. In this interview, they give us a glimpse into cutting edge sensor technologies.
Karin Loidl, Technology Marketing at Communication Networks Department, Hans-Peter Hohe, Group Manager of Magnetic Field Sensors and Dr. Peter Spies, Group Manager of Integrated Energy Supplies at Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, speak with Dilin Anand from EFY.
Q. WHAT ARE THE MOST EXCITING RECENT DEVELOPMENT IN SENSOR SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY AT YOUR INSTITUTE?
A. There is a new 3D magnetic field sensor technology with an interesting name. HallinOne as it is called, allows for 3-axis measurement of any magnetic field from one spot in a device such as a washing machine. The HallinOne FH5401 has two 3D sensors so that even gradients of the magnetic field can be measured. This reduces the influence of external disturbing magnetic fields in most applications. It is also well suited for angle based measurements and almost eliminates effects of changing temperatures of the magnet.
Q. ANY SIMILAR DEVELOPMENT FOR CRITICAL VERTICALS SUCH AS HEALTHCARE?
A. There is an innovative sensor system for the healthcare sector. We developed a wireless system for locating medical equipment and blood products as well as for condition monitoring. The project makes managing medical equipment easier and improves the safety of transfusion procedures by using what are known as smart objects – microelectronic modules that are able to gather and save information from their environment and communicate wirelessly. The sensor nodes form a wireless network which organises itself and constantly collects needed data such as location or temperature. Integrated power supplies allow the smart objects to activate autonomously so they can alert critical conditions wihtout human intervention.
Q. HOW HAVE YOUR INSTITUTE’S WIRELESS SENSOR NETWORK TECHNOLOGIES IMPROVED IN LAST TWO YEARS?
A. Characterised by distributed data acquisition, decentralised application software and mesh communication, sensor networks like s-net have become one of the best technologies to develop Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) and to enhance asset tracking, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) with an extremely power-efficient, self-organising multi-hop radio communication. By adaptive frequency hopping due to a fully decentralised channel selection scheme, it can deal with disruptions without any expensive measurement campaigns and frequency assignment in advance. Furthermore the sensors remain in their energy-efficient synchronous operation even when they are not within reach of an infrastructure network. This is the key to a robust sensor network covering wide geographic areas or for industry 4.0.
Q. WHAT ARE THE MOST RECENT ADVANCES IN S-NET TECHNOLOGY?
A. Real time data from wireless sensor networks allows a more flexible and decentralized decision making. Furthermore the data can be used to adapt processes quickly to their environment and increase the effectivity and efficiency of corporate action. This makes the technology the vital element of the industries of the future (integrated industry, Industry 4.0). For example the application of the s-net technology in the production industry combines wireless communication, tracking and sensing with application and process logic on a single platform. This allows for connected processes and the precise location of individual objects or components at factory sites. In smart production, the production can now get controlled by products themselves. We can get comprehensive sensory monitoring in smart environments, along with the combination of gapless traceability in smart tracking along with sensing and local application logic.
Q. HOW HAVE ENERGY HARVESTING TECHNOLOGIES IMPROVED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS?
A. More commercial devices and evaluation boards are available from major companies like Wuerth, Linear Technology and also from institutes like Fraunhofer IIS. Further products with energy harvesting are being launched, too. A lot of application devices like microcontrollers, sensors and wireless transceivers are being optimised for the use of energy harvesting. Special standards like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are available, which can be powered with energy harvesting due to their low power consumption.
Q. AS ENERGY HARVESTING TECHNOLOGIES IMPROVE, WHAT NEW APPLICATIONS ARE THEY CAPABLE OF?
A. After first products in the home automation sector were available, new applications are possible in the transport and logistic area. Mainly, wireless sensor with Bluetooth LE or even tracking systems (like Fraunhofers Daedalus project) for small goods like boxes are powered with energy harvesting. In the nearer future, also wearables like human body sensors will be powered, or at least assisted with energy harvesting.