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  Date: 11/02/2013

MEMS applications soar to sky

MEMS device is revolutionizing application of electronics for lot more unexplored areas of use. This resulting in fast growth of MEMS shipment. One of the leading maker of the MEMS device ST Microelectronics has said it has shipped three billion MEMS sensors by now.

ST shares a study by IHS where it finds the total MEMS and sensor sales grew more than 19% in 2012, reaching a total of approximately $800 million. In the largest of these markets, motion sensors in mobile handsets and tablets, ST’s MEMS sales accounted for 48% of the market. ST is said to be two times bigger than its nearest competitor.

“Our research shows that, in the mobile market, ST is the number one MEMS supplier across all of the important mobile handset operating systems,” said Jeremie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. “Even in the highly competitive Android market, ST has nearly twice the market share of its nearest competitor.”

MEMS is already popular in smart phones, tablets, personal media players, game consoles, digital still cameras, remote and also used for free-fall protection in laptop hard-disk drives. MEMS finds use in health and fitness products, car infotainment and enhanced navigation. They are being designed into applications to increase audio quality in mobile communications and weather/environmental monitoring capabilities to consumers’ mobile devices.

Amid this fast growth of applications, MEMS gets embedded behind a bird to track its motion. Bird-tracking system developed by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) Faculty of Science is embedded with MEMS sensors from ST to track the motion of the bird. The cent sized device tracker which can be fixed to back of the bird tracks bird behavior by measuring GPS position every 3 seconds.

The tracker device collects acceleration and direction data from STMicroelectronics’ LSM303DLM digital compass MEMS chip, which monitors the direction and vertical/horizontal orientation of the animal and can determine the body angle of birds flying in a crosswind.

Both the air temperature and the internal temperature of the device is also measured. This device is powered by a lithium battery, charged by a high-efficient triple-junction solar PV cell. The wireless data interface is through a ZigBee transceiver.

Data from the trackers is currently being shared among bird-research institutes and biologists to verify computer models that predict bird behavior and migration patterns (www.UvA-BiTS.nl).

“MEMS technologies are finding their way into a broad range of applications and only ST has the breadth of technologies available to serve as a one-stop supplier,” said Benedetto Vigna, Executive Vice President and General Manager of ST’s Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group. “The light weight, low power, and high accuracy of the MEMS make it ideal for innovative projects like UvA’s bird tracking system to study avian migration and behavior.”

“Animals have a lot to teach us and, especially as the Earth’s climate changes, there are many projects that we can undertake to study animal behavior and migration patterns,” said Prof. Dr. Ir. Willem Bouten of UvA. “STMicroelectronics is a strong partner for us in developing technologies that are suitable and adaptable to researching challenging problems that could help us address the effects of global warming and land use change."

So, literally and otherwise MEMS applications up in the sky.

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