The diversity of sensor makes electronic devices smarter

There is a wide array of electronic devices equipped with different control modes available in the market, including the use of keypads, wheels, sliders, and hand gesture recognition etc. Notwithstanding the kind of control mode adopted, sensor is inevitable in all devices for detecting human action. In this essay, sensors with a diversity of sensing technologies, including the inductance and capacitance methods, and the use of laser beam or IR are introduced.

Different choices of sensors meet different needs

Inductance sensor is able to measure the distance between the conductive object and the sensor and compression capacity of the coil of the sensor. This is applicable to sense the state of the lid in closed or open position, the angle of the wheel, the linear position of the slider, and the calculation of the gear in rotation. The advantage is that it does not require the use of magnet under the untouched technology. As such, it entails higher stability and will not be affected by the pollutants in the environment. In addition, it can support submicron level resolution and the cost of the sensor is very low. 

TI has launched the LDC1000 inductance-to-digital converter for inductive sensing applications. This product features multiple functions in analog front-end (AFE) and for high performance inductance-to-digital conversion of precision sensing. In addition, TI has launched the LDC0101 programmable proximity switch that can be applicable for the programmable switch point for contactless and wear-free On/Off switching applications, such as in the turbine flow meters, push button switch/game controller, door open/close detection, sensing the paper stack height of a printer, force sensing, travel sensor of a digital SLR camera lens, ABS wheel speed sensor, brake paddle position sensor, safety belt buckle detection, and passenger occupancy detection etc. This can also be used in detecting the breathing and heart beats of people on spring mattress with the use of the spring motion detection. The LDC1000 can be used as the platform for its development.

Arrow ESC unveiled the LDC metallic touch panel 16-button keypad evaluation module (EVM). It is used in combination with the LDC1614 microcontroller metallic touch panel and the graphical user interface (GUI) software package, and is applicable to the development of solutions for metallic touch panel control. The 16-button metallic touch EVM is engineered by electric inductance sensing and can provide better performance, higher stability and flexibility than solutions currently in service. With the use of electric inductance sensing technology, it is a solution of higher durability and stability than the keypad solution available at present, and could be applied to harsh environments due to its waterproof, dust-proof feature. Furthermore, this device can be used in extreme environments where the users have to wear gloves in the operation.

In addition, TI has also launched the MSP430FR2633 capacitive touch sensor with the application of the CapTIvate™ technology. This device has been certified with the IEC61000-4-6 standard and is the most noise-immune touch solution in excellent stability so far. It supports metallic touch, 3D hand gesture recognition and can be controlled by users wearing gloves for solution of many devices. With the built-in ultra-low-power FRAM capacitive touch microcontrollers, in the application to slider and wheel, it performs the best resolution. The designer may also work in cooperation with the CapTIvate design center to complete the design of the device in a very short time. This can be applicable to different home appliances, access control, industrial gauges, consumer applications, temperature controllers, POS terminals, security systems, and sanitation applications.

Capacitive proximity sensor technology is critical to many smart devices and equipment. TI lately launched the FDC2x1y series of capacitance-to-digital converters (FDC) based on the LC resonant sensor with high definition and electromagnetic interference (EMI) proof with tolerance of high offset capacitance. The sensor is simplified with high flexibility, and can easily be used in combination with various electric sensing proximity systems. When human hands get close to the touch panel, there will be a change in the capacitance of the system thereby translating into measurable frequency.

TI also launched the FDC2114 and FDC2214 evaluation modules for showing how capacitive sensing technology measures and senses out the existence of the target of measurement or the location of the object. The evaluation module includes two LC tank sensors that can be linked to the input channel of FDC2114/2214, and will be controlled by MSP430 afterwards. Each sensor is consisted of a single layer capacitor plate, a 33pF 1% COG/NP0 capacitor and a multiple LC tank parallel connected 18μH. The perforations of the PCB is for the separation of the sensor coil or the microcontroller, and can be connected to customized sensor or different types of microcontroller.

LIDAR, developed by INMOTION of Shenzhen, is a piece of two-dimensional laser radar device for scanning objects in 360°. This device can scan the distance with laser beam in 360° within the range of 8 meters. The data at the visual point cloud in the measurement can be extensively used in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and robot positioning and guidance, and for obstacle avoidance smart devices. The LIDAR laser radar sampling frequency is adjustable and defaulted as 3000 points per second at scanning frequency of 8Hz and the angular resolution is 1° with maximum attainable sampling frequency of 10Hz that can be customized to meet customer needs. The LIDAR laser radar is based on the triangulation measurement system and performs well in different indoor environments and outdoor environments without the presence of strong, direct sunlight.

The RGBD 3D vision depth camera is another product developed by INMOTION at Shenzhen. This camera can display 3D visual image of the surrounding area. This camera is equipped with 2 lens with different functions. One is a regular RGB camera lens while the other is a lens that can capture the surrounding objects in depth with measurement range of 0.2-5m with precision error calibration at 10mm and visual angle of 80° (diagonal). This can be used extensively to motion-sensing games, 3D modeling, robotic positioning and guidance, security monitoring, VR/AR and other hand gesture recognition smart devices. RGBD 3D depth camera adopted the Time-of Flight method in measurement with the emission of IR ray at 850nm after processing, and can be reflected after hitting an object in its path. The CMOS sensor of the camera will capture objects in different positions and calculate the relative distance through the Time-of-Flight method.

With such a great variety of sensors, designers can select the suitable sensors depending on their own needs and can use the evaluation modules to assess the specific features of the sensors to compress the time of development and launch new products to the market for its needs more quickly.

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