MEMS has been present at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for over a decade, but nobody knew it was there except for a handful of plugged-in engineers. Finally this year, MEMS received the respect and accolades it deserves. I am pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that MEMS Industry Group (MIG) hosted the first MEMS TechZone and MEMS conference track, "Connecting the Real World with the Digital World: Harnessing the Power of MEMS."
It also had a lot to with the prevalence of MEMS in today's consumer electronics. These have enabled enhancements consumers expect in the next generation of consumer devices. This new trend was a big part of the discussion at the CES conference track featuring Bosch Sensortec's Frank Melzer, Freescale's Seyed Paransun, VTI's Sten Stockmann, WiSpry's Jeff Hilbert, and myself as the moderator. I told the audience that if you want to be part of consumer electronics, you're going to need to have MEMS inside your device.
According to Hilbert: "We're at a tipping point for MEMS where it's becoming more generally available and usable. Companies are not just selling technology; they are providing total solutions. A decade ago MEMS companies began with sensors collecting data about the real world. Then they added processing; followed by the ability to act and then interact, which gave us the possibility of learning."
Now we are at a time where MEMS can enable "massive personalization," Hilbert said, of things (think iPhone 4S's Siri on steroids). With "MEMS on board," your world can become digitally customized -- imagine clothes that can change colors based on your surroundings or even your mood, or a mobile device that monitors your biorhythm and reminds you to take your medication.
Very soon, with the aid of MEMS's 9-axis accel/gyros, we are also going to have smartphones with 3D navigation that will be able to pinpoint your location inside a building to a high degree of accuracy. This can become a life-saving technology for first responders to find people buried in rubble where every second is critical. Paransun believes that "the sky is the limit in terms of opportunity and in terms of how MEMS can be deployed."