Chip-maker in ‘internet of things’ deal with US sensor giant

24 Mar 2009

The machines and structures of the future will be loaded with a rich network of tiny wireless sensing nodes that don’t need batteries, and thanks to a deal between a Dublin chip firm and US sensor giant, the future may arrive sooner than you think.

Pioneering Dublin-based fabless semiconductor firm DecaWave has struck a landmark deal with a US sensor giant to create wireless sensing nodes that could be used in a wide range of future medical, military, industrial, aircraft and civil-engineering applications.

The combination of DecaWave ScenSor’s ultra wide band (UWB) radio technology with MicroStrain’s energy-harvesting wireless sensor networks will lead to significant breakthroughs in the realisation of widespread sensing networks.

MicroStrain’s sensors are used in a wide range of applications, including knee/spine implants, bridges, unmanned vehicles, heavy machinery, fixed-wing aircraft, and helicopters.

The complex network of tiny wireless sensing nodes automatically monitor and report on structural and operational health.

The wireless nature of many of these applications necessitates ultra low power and energy harvesting. DecaWave’s ScenSor offers an ultra-low complexity coherent receiver, simultaneously giving MicroStrain the benefits of superior range ultra-low-power consumption.

The two firms connected during a November 2008 trade mission spearheaded by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

“MicroStrain will be one of the first companies to receive DecaWave’s UWB radio chips, which represent a breakthrough for wireless sensors,” said Steve Arms, president and CEO, MicroStrain. 

“DecaWave’s ScenSor operates at 10X lower energy levels and communicates at rates 20 times faster than our current radio chips, resulting in an overall energy savings of 200-fold. This will enable MicroStrain’s energy-harvesting wireless sensors to be smaller, faster and even more versatile.”

DecaWave’s flagship product ScenSor is a complete, single chip CMOS ultra-wideband IC based on the IEEE 802.15.4a standard.

The resulting silicon has a wide range of standards-based applications for both ultra-low-power wireless transceivers.

“ScenSor’s ultra-low-power capability is unrivalled and is highly suited to the energy requirements of MicroStrain’s portfolio of sensor applications. It opens up enormous potential in the wireless sensor sector,” said Ciaran Connell, DecaWave CEO.

By John Kennedy