To be innovative, engineers need to broaden their thinking beyond what they are working on, says John Hanks, vice president of measurement & control for National Instruments and keynote panel moderator at Sensors Expo 2008. A recurring theme in the panel that kicked off day two of the Expo was the need for engineers to broaden their horizons and look at other industries for solutions, which takes relationships outside the normal area of expertise. “Often engineers think about things and technology tracking while there are two other places [where] you can get innovation — concepts from other industries and people,” says Hanks.
Innovation at the Expo was recognized by awards to 14 exhibitors in eight categories. Most notably, Gold Awards were presented in the sensors category to Analog Devices’ ADIS16209 digital and MicroStrain Inc.’s Shear-Link inclinometer, in the sensor components category to Cymbet’s EnerChip CBC050 and in the data acquisition products category to Diversified Technical Systems Inc.’s Slice and Slice Nano DA systems.
Making Printed Pages Interactive
One of the first exhibits encountered inside the tradeshow entrance was Freescale Semiconductor. On display was Somatic Digital’s Touch User Interface (TUI) technology in the eTouchBook. With eTouchBook, readers of normal- and braille-printed materials can touch a printed page and access linked digital content or launch communication applications on a computer. Freescale’s 9-electrode MC33794 proximity sensor provides touch points for the communication platform.
More Wireless Sensing
Moving further beyond the doorway, innovative wireless sensing technology was everywhere.
Microchip Technology displayed its recently introduced 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.15.4 FCC-certified radio frequency transceiver module. The new module provides connectivity using ZigBee or proprietary wireless-protocol systems. Designed for sensor and control network environments, the MRF24J40MA includes discrete biasing components and an integrated PCB antenna.
Airbee demonstrated how the ZigBee protocol and its ZigBee™-ready networking software and other products can remotely control fans, lights and even light intensity.
MicroStrain used a number of different sensors including strain gauges to demonstrate wireless data acquisition enabled by its G-Link Micro Datalogging Transceiver systems.
Virtual Extensions pointed out its Diversity Path Mesh approach to wireless sensing has been implemented in Automated Meter Reading in multi-tenant buildings, pipeline security applications and building and industrial automation.
With energy harvesting providing the power source, KCF Technologies showed how sensor data can be easily transmitted using the company’s Model WSK100 self-powered wireless sensor kit.