Keeping a close eye on sensor development

ES Nov15 Pg14 TTI 1TTI has magnified its focus on sensors with new franchises, new people and new technologies such as the Grid-Eye infrared array sensor from Panasonic.

Investing in people, stock and systems helps TTI support each of its business sectors. One of the newest technology sectors to receive this attention is sensors, with TTI announcing Ros Kruger as supplier marketing director with responsibility in Europe for this diverse field. As a result, Kruger is building a strong business development team to support demand creation for existing sensor franchises such as Honeywell and Panasonic as well as new signings, TE Sensor Solutions and Amphenol Advanced Sensors.

Commenting, Ros Kruger said: “Our customers require a level of technical support that can be hard to find. We offer the expertise they need, often in conjunction with a specific supplier. Building three way partnerships between customer, manufacturer and distributor delivers the service that customers require.”

Sensor innovation

Grid-Eye, from Panasonic Automotive and Industrial Systems, is an example of one of the most exciting products now available at TTI. This infrared (IR) array sensor is described as the first ever 64 pixel IR camera in an all-in-one surface mount package. Based on Panasonic’s micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) technology, Grid-Eye combines the MEMS sensor chip, a digital application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and a silicon lens. It has 64 thermopile elements in an eight by eight grid format that detects absolute surface temperature without contact. Unlike conventional sensors, Grid-Eye boasts a patented 60deg silicon lens etched from a silicon wafer, which, at less than 0.3mm height, is claimed to be the smallest lens on the market.

The combination of these sophisticated technologies ensures the sensor package measures just 11.6 by 8.0 by 4.3mm, which is said to be around 70 per cent smaller than competing products. Compared to pyroelectric sensors, Grid-Eye makes it possible not only to detect moving people and objects but also the position and presence of stationary people and objects. Direction of movement and accurate surface temperature between -20 and 100°C can also be detected.

New applications

With these features, the Grid-Eye sensor addresses a variety of new applications such as: energy saving in the lighting industry; domestic appliances including air conditioners and microwave ovens; safety and security systems including lifts, automatic doors, elevators, kiosks; or medical devices used to detect a patient fall. Further examples include hot-spot detection, human detection inside vehicles and contactless temperature measurement in industrial applications.

Grid-Eye is also able to differentiate people from other heat sources such as displays or heaters. Moreover, as Grid-Eye is an infrared sensor, detection of people is almost independent of ambient light conditions and unlike cameras, its use does not intrude on personal privacy.

Evaluate progress

As well as the product itself, TTI offers a Grid-Eye evaluation kit that includes Panasonic’s ‘nanopower’ PAN1740 Bluetooth Smart module and a microcontroller on one PCB. This integrated single-mode Bluetooth module is optimised for low power, consuming only 4.9mA in transmit or receive mode, and small size, measuring just 9.0 by 9.5 by 1.8mm. It benefits from a shielded case, chip antenna and integrated crystal oscillators.

PC software and a smartphone app enable customers to test the Grid-Eye sensor for various applications. This will help users explore the advantages of Grid-Eye in combination with Bluetooth technology, which is expected to result in some innovative wireless internet of things (IoT) applications.