2015

Exploring the future of lensless smart sensors

Rambus blog, September 2015
This story was originally published on the Rambus Blog in September 2015, outlining the worked we did together designing the future of sensing in the Internet of Things. 

Rambus’ lensless smart sensor (LSS) technology took center stage at a recent summit in San Francisco co-hosted by frog San Francisco and IXDS from Berlin. This event represented the culmination of several months of intense design innovation collaboration between Rambus and its “Partners in Open Development (POD).” In this context, they worked together to conceive and develop functional prototype product design concepts based on LSS hardware and software.

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IXDS’ contribution

According to Prof. Reto Wettach, Rambus lensless smart sensors have the potential to fulfill three primary roles:

* Upgrade – To upgrade existing products.
* Integral – To be part of an original product design.
* Auxiliary – To observe (monitor) other objects for change.

Wettach also identified six primary categories Rambus LSS technology could potentially help evolve, such as smart infrastructure (cities and homes), tool manufacturing, medical, toys, consumer electronics and professional equipment. Specific LSS-powered prototypes showcased at the event included an assembly & maintenance platform, a self-driving model vehicle and a smartwatch.

Rambus Assembly / Maintenance Use Case

Eliott Jones, Rambus Vice President of User Experience, who led the effort from the Rambus side, feels particularly strongly about the upgrade potential that Wettach referenced. He explained, “Obviously, most of the world of objects already exists. So, if LSS can be incorporated into them as a retrofit due to its low power and minute size, there is huge potential to bring intelligence to existing domains such as city infrastructure and vehicle navigation, among others.”

The IXDS team outlined three key features of the assembly & maintenance platform, including low energy sipping, extended battery life and a minimal price point (disposable).

As Wettach notes, a number of platforms and devices could potentially benefit from the low energy sipping requirements of LSS, such as smart cat-eyes, structural integrity monitors for urban infrastructure (bridges or buildings) and traffic lights. Meanwhile, the low cost of LSS would allow the technology to be deployed in disaster relief emergencies (non-retrievable items), disposable medical devices and pay-per-usage monitoring and packaging platforms.

Similarly, the IXDS self-driving model vehicle on display at the summit emphasized three primary LSS features: size, cost and symbol recognition capabilities.

Rambus Smartwatch Prototype Demonstration

According to Wettach, Rambus’ uber-mini lensless smart sensors can also be integrated in internal medical tools, implants and wearables. In addition, the symbol recognition capabilities of LSS could be used to track license plates, read barcodes and assist drivers with navigation.

Gesture control and low energy sipping were the primary themes of the LSS-based prototype smartwatch designed by IXDS – which could ultimately be powered by kinetic energy at some point in the future. In the meantime, the gesture control capabilities of LSS offer potential benefits for in-car infotainment systems, smart devices and music players.

Rambus Vehicle Sensing Use Case

Read the full story on the Rambus blog: