IoT News Roundup

Telefónica launches DIY IoT package; STMicroelectronics bridging MEMS cost-performance gap; M2Mi joins Industrial Internet Consortium; Big dollars around the Internet of Things.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 06, 2014

Telefónica R&D Arm Launching Thinking Things for Do-It-Yourselfers

Telefónica I+D, the research and development division of Spanish telecommunications firm Telefónica, is developing a range of sensors and a Web service called Thinking Things, designed as a do-it-yourself approach to machine-to-machine applications for home or office applications.

The first Thinking Things offering, known as the Environmental Pack, consists of a set of modules enabling users to monitor and remotely "control the temperature, humidity and light intensity of a given place, and to program automated tasks," according to a statement from the company. The sensors snap together like Lego bricks and immediately begin transmitting data to the Thinking Things software application. The hardware was built using an Arduino microcontroller, which was developed by the open-source community and is designed to make developing sensors and actuators easy for hobbyists. The devices support 2G Internet connectivity in Europe, the United States and Latin America, and Telefónica offers an application programming interface (API) that allows developers to create their own IoT solutions built on the sensors, either through smartphone applications or websites.

The Environmental Pack, paired with 12 or six months of connectivity, costs €99.95 ($124) and €89.95 ($111), respectively, via the Thinking Things shop, which also sells a development kit for €199.95 ($248). The company is also developing modules with presence and pressure sensors, and reports that additional devices incorporating GPS and RFID technology are currently in development as well.

STMicroelectronics' New MEMS Process Bridges Gap Between Cost, Accuracy

Semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics, which makes Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors for industrial and consumer applications, has announced that it has begun producing sensors using a new hybrid manufacturing process that boosts the accuracy of inertial sensors, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, without increasing manufacturing costs. MEMS can be produced either through etching into silicon or by growing a layer of natural or artificial crystals (a process called an epitaxy), atop the silicon and then etching into this layer. The latter is the lower-cost option, but because the epitaxially created crystals have a lower mass than silicon, it produces less accurate inertial sensors.

"Think of a MEMS accelerometer as a spring with mass attached to the end," explains Michael Markowitz, STMicroelectronics' director of technical media relations. "The heavier the mass, the more accurately you can measure the change in momentum," which is why silicon's higher mass creates more accuracy in inertial sensors, relative to those manufactured with the epitaxy. STMicroelectronics' new process, known as THELMA60 (60µm Thick Epi-poly Layer for Micro-gyroscopes and Accelerometers) increases the epitaxial layer—to 60 microns (0.002 inch)—which increases sensitivity in the range traditionally occupied by sensors etched from silicon, without adding as much cost.

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