The stay-at-home culture fostered during the pandemic to mitigate the worst impacts of COVID-19 has reduced traffic congestion and cleaned up city air. A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research calculated that the reduction in air pollution due to fewer personal vehicles traveling in US cities has led to a drop of about 25 percent in air-quality related illnesses such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease across the country.
But there is no room for complacency. As cities open up in the post-pandemic world, congestion is returning. That accompanying traffic continuously pumps out noxious emissions, including the deadly 2.5µm diameter (and less) atmospheric particulate matter (PM). This “PM2.5” pollution penetrates deep into the lungs, making it the most hazardous pollutants to health.
The poverty-stricken suffer the most from the global problem of poor air quality. For example, Mumbai, India, subject to crippling congestion from poorly-maintained vehicles, often suffers from appalling air quality. The Times of India newspaper reported the city ranked the 63rd most polluted from a list of 859 worldwide and the fourth most polluted ‘megacity.' This is a conurbation where, according to the newspaper, twenty percent of the population live below the poverty line, which the United Nations (U.N.) defines as a person who lives on less than US$1.90 per day.
The rapidly-maturing Internet of Things (IoT) provides a long-term solution to poor air quality for developed and developing nations alike. Widespread deployment of commercial air-quality sensors—wirelessly connected to the IoT via low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) like LoRaWAN®—promises to generate the fine-grained data that city planners need to address the challenges of atmospheric pollution.
Mumbai is far from unique. The U.N. says that, globally, more than one billion city dwellers live in slums, and they suffer disproportionally from the impact of poor air quality. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is mainly responsible for non-communicable diseases, causing around 24 percent of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 percent from stroke, 43 percent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 29 percent from lung cancer.
The U.N. recognizes we need urgent action to improve this at-risk group's quality of life and safety. In 2015, the U.N.’s members adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the plan included making cities safe, resilient, and sustainable. Part of that objective consists of a commitment to improving air quality.
IoT technology providers willingly support the U.N.'s agenda. Among these is the LoRa Alliance, an open, nonprofit association whose members closely collaborate to promote the LoRaWAN protocol. The alliance’s members are developing several air pollution mitigation initiatives under the "LoRaWAN for Good" umbrella.
The IoT’s capacity to quickly generate, collate, and analyze data from compact, inexpensive wireless sensors—connected to the cloud via LoRaWAN—enables city planners to take advantage of "big data" to improve air pollution control. The systems comprise the following elements:
Wireless air quality sensors can be “tuned” to pick up the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) prevalent in exhaust gases and give an overall indication of the air pollution created by vehicles. Because these PM2.5 and gas sensors are inexpensive and unobtrusive, they can be widely distributed across a city to monitor air pollution.
LoRaWAN-enabled end-devices are incorporated into these wireless air-quality sensor networks, and these, in turn, are connected to a LoRaWAN network of gateways. They can transmit data to 5km in urban areas and up to 15km across rural line-of-sight connections, using end devices with batteries lasting ten years. Thus, LoRaWAN can provide a backbone for the rapid and inexpensive deployment of wireless sensor networks in any city area.
To ensure reliable, long-term performance, the LoRaWAN must be built from industrial-grade equipment. Therefore, the gateways are the critical link in the communication chain, and fortunately, there are many proven industrial options. One example is the Advantech WISE-6610 Industrial LoRaWAN Gateway, which ensures reliable LoRaWAN connectivity for industrial environments. The Advantech gateways support private and public LoRaWAN networks and feature MQTT, the lightweight network protocol that forms part of the Internet Protocol (I.P.) Suite.
The hardware and software flexibility of the WISE-6610 gateways support edge-computing systems and include redundancy-enhanced functions to prevent connection loss. In addition, high levels of security are underpinned by VPN tunnel creation for safe communication and a network server that can locally encrypt and convert LoRaWAN data. Other features include an 868-to-915MHz frequency range, a power input range of 9-to-36VDC, DIN rail or wall mounting, and an IP30 enclosure rating.
Data sent to the cloud by the LoRaWAN gateway can be aggregated and analyzed to build an almost real-time, fine-grained picture of how air pollution is changing throughout a city. As the historical database develops, algorithms can refer to past events to accurately predict how future patterns will play out—enabling authorities to take preventative measures if needed. Such information will allow for measured and proactive interventions such as regulating traffic flows, temporarily lowering road tolls for cleaner vehicles, and quickly advising citizens via the cellular network or internet to avoid areas that might soon become hazardous.
While cities remain wedded to diesel and gasoline vehicles, PM2.5 emissions from tailpipes will be a potential hazard to human health. But major conurbations are wising up to the loss of productivity and the increased load on the health system caused by respiratory ailments, and they are now turning to the IoT and LoRaWAN to address the weaknesses of traditional monitoring systems. Networks of wireless sensors generating continuous streams of accurate data in near real time enable planners to make informed decisions such as cutting traffic flows to limit pollution on days with particularly adverse conditions.
With engineers now rolling out the next generation of wireless sensor networks, backed by city-wide LoRaWAN infrastructure, the U.N.'s eleventh Sustainable Development Goal to make cities safe, resilient, and sustainable is much closer. Moreover, it's a perfect example of how LoRa technology can be harnessed for good.
Across the globe, cities are suffering from air pollution, and the poor are particularly vulnerable. The increasing use of the IoT, coupled with the availability of inexpensive wireless sensors tuned to measure NO2 and CO, offers an opportunity to address this growing problem. Wireless air-quality sensors supported by LoRaWAN infrastructure provide the rapid, fine-grained data needed to tackle both long-term and transient episodes of high-particulate pollution.
As we’re frequently reminded, people are living longer and (in many cases) leading healthier lifestyles. This is primarily thanks to improved medical techniques and interventions. As elderly population demographics continue to grow in most countries, healthcare is following suit, booming on a global scale. Technology has played a huge role in this growth, and continues to enable improvements in healthcare to be realized.
From robotic surgery, electronic anaesthesia regulators, and therapeutic or diagnostic radiology machines, to communications technology in hospital wards, and various instruments found in outpatient departments ), technology is prevalent within the confines of the hospital environment technology being utilized within hospitals continues to develop, but a burgeoning marketplace is also emerging in a domestic context too. Much of it is intended to provide continuous or occasional monitoring of patients’ health, with the results that are gathered uploaded to healthcare operatives in hospitals, clinics or even GPs’ offices.
This reduces the burden on the healthcare system by allowing patients to attend hospitals or doctors’ offices for consultation less regularly than they might otherwise have to do, while enabling alarms to be triggered if unusual readings are noted. Perhaps most valuably of all, it enables patients to enjoy more relaxed lives.
Many people are significantly incapacitated by their medical conditions and find hospital visits mentally taxing and time-consuming. By having their readings captured automatically then passed on to relevant experts for analysis, much less emotional strain falls on the patients’ shoulders. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communication (NFC) are two wireless technologies already being widely employed for accessing patient data..
Smartphones and their associated apps are now invaluable to doctors when they are on the move. They enable test results to be called up and viewed rapidly. They have also been found to improve clinical decision making, allowing doctors to check that they are on the right track immediately, rather than having to go elsewhere to refer to notes or study related material. Mobile technology is also frequently used by patients for downloading test results or readings from devices such as single-lead, Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) monitors, for instance.
As evidenced above, many of the innovations being made in the medical field are spin-offs from developments in consumer electronics. Wearable technology has been a tremendous buzz phrase for the last few years, with a great deal of progress being made in the area of fitness aids. While there are signs that the craze is starting to die down in the consumer field, the healthcare market provides an attractive alternative route through which ongoing technological development can take place.
Whatever the underlying basis of these developments may be, the key parameter must always be safety for the patient:In no way can the device in question jeopardize patient health. Medical wearables should not only be safe, but also reliable, both in terms of overall operation and the integrity of data being recorded.
One notable area of development lies in adhesive patches. These items contain sensors that enable the wearer’s sweat to be analyzed for important biomarkers and can, for instance, be used to detect the existence of conditions like cystic fibrosis. Doctors can also use patches to monitor other aspects of a patient’s health, such as oxygen levels, heart rate, or medication-taking.
Academic researchers from the Technical University of Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, are currently working on combining the use of organic and large area electronics with techniques such as thin film metallization. By doing so they can build up multiple layers of sophisticated, flexible electronics that are highly optimised for wearable medical deployment.
Meanwhile, diabetic patients are also benefiting from developments in wearable technology. Frequent and accurate reading of diabetics’ glucose levels is vital to ensure that these individuals’ blood sugar levels remain stable and are controlled effectively. Interstitial fluid (the fluid that is located between body cells and provides much of the body’s liquid content) serves an accurate indicator of glucose levels. A wearable tracker introduced by Dexcom consists of a disposable needle that goes under the skin and measures the amount of glucose in the interstitial fluid, along with a patch that sits on top of the needle and contains the electronics needed to capture the data and subsequently transmit it via Bluetooth. The needle and patch are worn unobtrusively on the user’s abdomen.
Powering wearable medical technology is another important aspect for researchers to explore. Ensuring that a worn device has access to the necessary power reserves is of paramount importance. Certainly no user wants the inconvenience of carrying a heavy battery everywhere. Research teams are studying ways in which nanotechnology can harness users’ body movements or heat to power the technology they wear.
As well as making sure that devices adapted from consumer-related beginnings to medical use are fully safe to use, there are security issues that must be addressed. It is obvious that the Internet of Things (IoT) will play an important role in the future development of healthcare technology. There is already enormous concern about how security for commercial devices is to be implemented and the form it will take in this world-changing development. Healthcare applications, with their stringent requirements when it comes to safeguarding patient data, will cause this anxiety to be amplified considerably.
There are still worries that pacemakers, controlling the heart’s fibrillation patterns for those vulnerable to irregular heartbeats, are relatively simple to hack into. Similar concerns have been raised about controlling the doses of insulin delivered automatically to diabetic patients by a tiny pump fitted in their bodies. The dosage level could easily be raised to lethal levels through the wireless link being compromised. Then, of course, there is the issue of malware finding its way onto hospital computer systems. Recent events have shown that there are serious vulnerabilities in that respect.
Liability is a key consideration in most technology industry sectors, but in few does it prove to be as critical as in healthcare. Medical errors occur, as do medical malpractice cases. Humans will never be completely infallible. Technology has an important role to play in supporting doctors in their decision-making processes, but there is still potential for mistakes to occur, whether in diagnosis or in treatment. If a piece of technology has aided the doctor’s actions, to whom should the blame be attributed? There is the prospect that a bug in the software or faulty hardware, rather than the medical practitioner, may be deemed responsible for inappropriate measures taken that severely impacted a patient’s life. This means that the accountability of device manufacturers, software vendors and IC producers could all be tested on a much more frequent basis. Are the legislative lines going to become increasingly blurred? That is a thorny question for lawyers to chew over.
While there are many concerns surrounding the incorporation of emerging technology into everyday healthcare, there are also immense opportunities for it too. Whether it is in the technology that underlies the delivery of services, advances in thin film electronics, low-power wireless communication, or something entirely new, the potential benefits are unquestionable. This is truly an exciting area to get involved in. After all, our health is the most important thing for most of us. What contribution can you make?
Technology connects me to work, news, and entertainment 24/7. That type of access has its benefits, but when left unchecked, it can dominate my time, distracting me from the things that matter most. New research on the patterns of technology used by parents has me wondering, what are my kids learning about life as they watch me check my phone for the nth time tonight?
As a web designing, blogging, video streaming, tweeting, RSS reading kind of guy, it isn't hard for me to imagine where my children picked up their obsession with technology. Like most, my kids have to be in front of any screen that is turned on. They like it even more when they can put their sticky little fingers all over it which is why the plasma in our living room looks like a piece of finger print art. Dirty screens aside, I generally enjoy watching my kids interact with technology. The thing I’m noticing that has me concerned is that internet speed isn’t the only thing that is lost in our home when we all enter our own isolated gaming, streaming, networking and emailing worlds.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thinking about pulling the plug. In fact, I don’t think that technology is the problem. I appreciate all of the upsides that technology provides us as a family. Sites like Khan Academy have been essential in helping me to give my kindergartener a love of math and my preschoolers have learned a lot from their favorite coloring and puzzle apps. Technology can bring us together for family movie nights and around interactive books on our iPad. Many daddy daughter dates have been as simple and sweet as sitting in our favorite frozen yogurt shop and taking turns catapulting angry Chewbacca birds into tiny Storm Troopers on my phone. Truth be told, I really like technology and I’m thankful that I get to share it with my children.
As with most things in my home, when it comes to technology, I want to be responsible. I want to use technology to create shared experiences with my kids. I’m simply becoming aware that it won’t happen naturally. Dr. Steiner-Adair suggests that “We as parents have to be much more mindful about how our own wiring is interacting with technology in those moments when our children need us.” Unfortunately, I am wired to think “I can reply to this email in less than two minutes – I should just take care of it quickly!” and, “If I let the kids watch another episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, I can finish this blog before dinner.” But the point of the technology should be that it provides more time for me to spend with my kids, not another reason to tell them “Hold on, daddy is busy.”
So I am trying to change. I want to be more aware of who or what is getting the best of my attention and take simple steps to be more engaged and less distracted when I am with my kids.
I’d love to hear from you. Does technology interrupt your time as a family, or bring you closer together? How do you use technology to create time with your kids? How do you keep it from becoming a distraction? Family is important. Leave a comment below and let’s think through this together.
The global demand for sustainable and efficient farming methods is driving the adoption of drone technology in smart farming and farm animal resources. Agricultural drones offer tremendous benefits in seed plantation, crop monitoring, and precision agriculture. To further enhance the development of agricultural drone designs, Würth Elektronik released its new IMU 6-Axis Sensor Evaluation Board for the WSEN-ISDS 6-Axis Sensor. Let's explore how this evaluation board, combined with drone technology, is transforming smart farming and plantation practices.
The Würth Elektronik Evaluation Board for the WSEN-ISDS Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) 6-Axis Sensor is designed to provide developers with an opportunity to verify sensor performance and develop prototypes using an extension board, such as a Sensor Shield for Arduino. This evaluation board offers convenient integration with the sensor shield through the mounted I2C and SPI interface pins. Additionally, it can be mounted on a breadboard using the through-hole pin header connections. With its 16-bit digital ultra-low-power and high-performance MEMS sensor, which includes a 3-axis linear accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope, the evaluation board is ideal for various applications such as drones, industrial IoT, connected devices, robotics, and automation.
The Würth Elektronik Evaluation Board offers the following features and benefits for agricultural drone design.
Sensor Characteristics: The 6-axis IMU sensor on the evaluation board incorporates a 3-axis gyroscope and a 3-axis accelerometer with a fully calibrated 16-bit output. The adjustable full scales for acceleration and gyroscope allow customization based on specific drone requirements, ensuring optimal performance in various agricultural applications.
Communication Interface: The board supports both I2C and SPI interfaces for seamless communication with the sensor, offering flexibility in integrating it with various microcontrollers and development platforms.
Fast Prototyping: The evaluation board expedites the development process, allowing engineers and designers to quickly iterate and refine their agricultural drone designs. It provides a convenient platform for testing and validating the WSEN-ISDS IMU 6-Axis sensor.
Sensor Performance Verification: The evaluation board enables precise verification of the sensor's performance, ensuring accurate data collection for critical design aspects and ensuring its suitability for their specific application requirements such as crop monitoring, aerial imaging, and navigation. This leads to enhanced decision-making and optimized farming practices.
Easy Integration: The evaluation board is designed for seamless integration with other hardware components. It can be directly plugged into a sensor shield for Arduino or a sensor FeatherWing, simplifying the connection process and facilitating rapid development.
Target applications for the Würth Elektronik Evaluation Board include:
The global challenges of food supply and environmental sustainability are being addressed by the transformative power of drone technology in agriculture. Drones equipped with advanced sensors and capabilities are revolutionizing smart farming practices in the following ways:
Rwanda, located in East Africa, has a rich and complex history dating back thousands of years. Marred by conflict and tragedy, the country has shown resilience and determination in overcoming its challenges. Today, Rwanda is striving to build a prosperous and inclusive society for its citizens and has made remarkable progress in various sectors, including farming, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and technology. The country is committed to prioritizing economic development and poverty reduction.
According to a December 2020 article1, authors Sylvere Nshimiyimana and Jean D'Amour Rukundo from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB University) explain that the Rwandan government has outlined Vision 2050, a long-term development plan aimed at transforming the country into a knowledge-based, middle-income economy. The review states that Rwanda is embracing modern agricultural technologies to transition from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture.
The review explains that the incorporation of various strategies, policies, and modern agricultural technologies has greatly transformed agricultural activities in Rwanda. Among these advancements, the use of drones for precision agriculture stands out as a significant contributor. Alongside initiatives such as the Information and Communication Technology for Agriculture (ICT4Ag) Strategy and the implementation of the Crop Intensification Program (CIP), drones have revolutionized farming practices in Rwanda. By harnessing the power of drone technology, farmers can now achieve unprecedented precision and accuracy in their agricultural operations. Equipped with advanced imaging sensors, GPS technology, and data analytics capabilities, drones gather detailed information on crop health, soil conditions, and pest infestations. This invaluable data empowers farmers to make informed decisions regarding irrigation, fertilization, and pest control, leading to optimized resource allocation and improved yields.
Moreover, drones can enable efficient monitoring and management of large-scale agricultural fields that would otherwise be challenging to survey manually. The aerial perspective provided by drones facilitates the identification of potential issues, such as nutrient deficiencies or water stress, allowing farmers to take timely action and mitigate crop losses.
An article by The New Times2 discusses the innovative use of drones to enhance pig breeding in Rwanda. Drone technology is being employed to improve pig productivity and address challenges faced by farmers in the country.
The pilot project is revolutionizing pig breeding for smallholders [stakeholders]. Instead of traveling long distances to hire a male stud or collect pig semen, farmers now receive swine semen via drone delivery. Zipline, in collaboration with the Rwandan Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), has successfully operated this initiative since the beginning. The project addresses the challenges faced by farmers and offers a convenient and efficient solution for pig breeding in the country. The initiative aims to increase pig production and enhance the livelihoods of farmers, ultimately contributing to Rwanda's agricultural development. Under the Rwanda Livestock Master Plan, launched in December 2017, the pig industry is expected to be a major contributor to Rwanda’s meat production.
The adoption of drone technology in smart farming and plantation practices is driven by the global demand for sustainable and efficient farming methods. In the case of Rwanda, a country that has embraced drone technology in its efforts to transition from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture, drones have been instrumental in achieving precision agriculture and improving agricultural activities in the country. By harnessing the power of drones, farmers in Rwanda can make informed decisions regarding irrigation, fertilization, and pest control, leading to optimized resource allocation and improved yields. Drones are also being used to enhance pig breeding in Rwanda, offering a convenient and efficient solution for smallholders and contributing to the country's agricultural development.
The Würth Elektronik IMU Sensor Evaluation Board, combined with drone technology, is revolutionizing smart farming, plantations, and requirements such as crop monitoring. Its fast-prototyping capabilities and the verification of sensor performance are invaluable for agricultural drone design. By leveraging the advanced features of the evaluation board, design engineers can develop smarter, faster, and more efficient agricultural drones, contributing to global food security and environmentally friendly farming practices. Experience the future of smart farming with Würth Elektronik's IMU Sensor Evaluation Board.
5G will not only boost mobile telecom but also the IoT with technology such as DECT-2020 NR. (Source: THANANIT - stock.adobe.com)
Mobile communications has followed a development path signposted by “generations”. It forms an interesting history kicking-off with the retroactively applied ‘0G’ label used to describe analog systems that predated the cellular approach.
Things really got going with the analog/digital technology of the late 1970s and early 80s; ‘1G’ was based on cellular mobile coms that used analog radio for calls but digital systems for backhaul. ‘2G’ arrived in the early 1990s as an all-digital system. Before the turn of the century, we saw ‘3G’ (building on enhancements introduced by 2.5G and 2.75G) which introduced higher throughput to support the emergence of the smartphone. Enhancements to 3G boosted speeds such that it could handle mobile internet and streaming video.
4G is based on the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard and was introduced in Scandinavia in 2009. It has since been deployed over much of the planet and is the mobile technology with which we are most familiar today. It offers a maximum throughput of 100Mbps (compared to around 15Mbps for 3G) and can support high-definition video, online gaming, and video conferencing.
Next is 5G. The standard was introduced in 2016 and 5G networks are being rolled out. It promises a staggering maximum speed of 32Gbps (downlink) and 13.6Gbps (uplink). Once fully deployed, 5G will be directly competitive with fiber cable solutions for internet support. The technology also offers lower latency, better coverage, and improved spectral efficiency compared to 4G.
So 5G is like 4G then, but just a bit bigger and better. Actually, that’s far from it; 5G also ushers in lots of new technology that’s of little benefit to users of Zoom, Netflix, and TikTok but will prove critical to the growth of the IoT.
The 3GPP, a unification of seven telecoms standards development organizations, has worked hard to ensure 5G is not only built for demanding consumers, but also for the future requirements of enterprise organizations and the IoT. Behind the scenes, engineers have methodically put together the document that details the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)-2020 specifications. IMT-2020 is the bible of 5G, detailing how it will be built and how it will meet the exacting demands of consumers and industry. The specification includes: an initial peak data rate of 20Gbps; a typical user data rate of 100Mbps; one millisecond latency; an “area traffic capacity” of 10Mbps per square meter, and a connection density of one million devices per square kilometer.
These guidelines clearly demonstrate how the 5G network is being built for a combination of high speed (for consumer and commerce applications) and high device density (for the IoT). 4G is more consumer-oriented (although suitably modified networks can support cellular IoT technology such as NB-IoT and LTE-M). The magnitude of the challenge for 5G can be appreciated when considering, for example, conventional device density. Tokyo has an average population density of over 6,000 people per square kilometer and most people own a least one mobile device. If they all wanted to access the internet, the local network could still cope. That’s impressive, but it’s two orders of magnitude lower than the planned device density of 5G.
A clue to how 5G will cope with the twin demands of consumers and the IoT is hidden in the detail of IMT- 2020. The document describes two elements: 5G LTE technology for traditional users and new radio (NR) for other use cases, including the unique demands of the IoT. Engineers refer to these elements as “radio interface technologies” (RITs).
Between them, the LTE and NR RITs fulfil all the technical performance requirements across the five anticipated use cases:
The last two, URLLC and mMTC (related), use cases primarily support the IoT.
LTE and NR operate in frequency bands below 7.125GHz identified for IMT use, but NR can also use the IMT frequency bands above 24.25GHz. The so-called upper mid-bands (3.3 to 7.125GHz) are the key 5G resource and offer satisfactory throughput and range for consumers and commerce. The ‘high bands’ above 24GHz offer support for both high device density and extreme throughput.
It turns out that 5G doesn’t even have to be cellular technology. Buried in the IMT-2020 document is a reference to what’s been labeled “the first non-cellular 5G standard” - DECT-2020 NR. It makes the grade by offering support for one million devices per square kilometer and although not strictly cellular, it does borrow a lot of technology from cellular systems.
DECT 2020 NR is an interesting technology that demonstrates how comprehensive IMT-2020 is in identifying the scope of 5G. The technology uses the global—and, unusually for 5G operations, license free—1.9 MHz band and will support mMTC on wireless mesh and other types of networks. These networks typically underpin IoT applications with very high deployment densities, and high reliability and low latency demands—such as thousands of compact sensors/actuators in industrial automation applications.
DECT-2020 NR stacks up well against other wireless IoT technologies used for mMTC. For example, when supporting node densities up to its maximum capability, the technology offers a top performance of 100kbps throughput with sub-10ms latency. That’s ideal for typical IoT applications.
5G is the first generation of cellular (with a sprinkling of non-cellular) mobile technology that was designed from the outset to support not only traditional mobile telecoms, but up-and-coming wireless technologies such as the IoT. 6G is already in the works and is said, perhaps not surprisingly, to be significantly faster than 5G. The plan is to use frequencies ranging from 100GHz to 3THz and support will extend from consumer and the IoT to new sectors such as AI and fully immersive VR. Based on the decade-long beat rate for introductions of new generations of mobile wireless technology, expect to see 6G-capable smartphones in the stores in 2030.
(Source: Andrey Popov - stock.adobe.com)
Thermal Metal Oxide Semiconductor (TMOS) technology is emerging with promising improvements over the decades-old passive infrared (PIR) sensor technology for human motion and presence detection. At the heart of the sensor is a nano-machined metal-oxide transistor that can detect heat radiation and a digital processing ASIC capable of detecting motion, presence, and temperature. Due to the lower power consumption, integration, and smaller size, the IR sensors based on TMOS technology are well suited for the IoT market, including smart city, smart home, and smart vehicle applications.
In this blog, we examine how TMOS technology builds on conventional PIR sensor technology by detecting human motion and presence using a highly accurate measurable response to minimal infrared radiation, whether the person is moving or still.
One of the historical drawbacks to PIR sensors is the invisible man effect. If you ever used one of those motion-enabled lights that turn on when you enter the room, you would also notice that the light turns off at the most inopportune times. For example, the automatic closet light turns on when you enter the closet, but the light turns off after 30 seconds while you are still in the closet trying to select your shoes. This issue is due to the nature of PIR sensors—they detect motion. If there is no motion in the field of view (FoV), the sensor fails to detect the presence of a human being. Thus, we have the so-called invisible man effect.
In comparison to PIR-based sensors, TMOS technology likewise detects motion as a person enters or leaves the FoV, but it also detects presence (Figure 1). If a person stands still, the PIR sensor does not recognize the person and immediately drops its output signal. This is where TMOS technology shows its advantages.
Figure 1: The difference in presence and motion detection using PIR vs. TMOS (Source: STMicroelectronics)
The TMOS sensor offers two internal algorithms, or flags, called Motion and Presence. The Motion flag, like the PIR sensor, detects the person entering and leaving the FoV. The Presence flag, however, detects that the person remains in the FoV. As long as a person is in the FoV, TMOS will detect their presence and not drop its output signal.
The digital TMOS technology includes an ASIC that converts analog signals into digital signals that can be processed by the ASIC (Figure 2).
Figure 2:ST’s IR Sensor Block Diagram shows how the ASIC converts analog signals into digital signals (Source: STMicroelectronics)
The STHS34PF80 sensor has been designed to measure the amount of IR radiation emitted from an object within its FoV and digitally process the signal in the ASIC, which can be programmed to monitor motion, presence, or an overtemperature condition. The signal processing significantly improves the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR), reduces non-uniformities and false alarms, optimizes power, includes self-calibration, enables automatic operation, and incorporates clever algorithms to optimize and improve performance.
Thanks to its exceptional sensitivity, the STHS34PF80 can detect the presence of a human being at a distance up to 4 meters without needing an optical lens. The IR sensor embeds smart digital algorithms to support presence detection, motion detection, and ambient temperature sudden change detection.
Presence detection is accomplished in the IR sensor by programming the threshold values into the PRESENSE_THS and HYST_PRES registers (Figure 3). In the ASIC section of the sensor, the output of the TMOS sensing element is fed into low-pass filters LPF_P_M and LPF_P. The chip tracks the difference between these low-pass filters and compares the value with the two thresholds of PRESENCE_THS and HYST_PRES, which were configured in the software. The presence detection flag signal (PRES_FLAG) is activated when the difference between the two filtered signals exceeds the threshold value.
Figure 3: Presence detection algorithm in the TMOS sensor diagram (Source: STMicroelectronics)
In addition to the Presence algorithm, the STHS34PF80 can set threshold values for motion and ambient temperature change and alert the system host controller when a threshold is crossed.
Thermal Metal Oxide Semiconductor technology is revolutionizing the field of motion and presence detection by addressing the limitations of traditional passive infrared sensors. The STHS34PF80 is an innovative TMOS technology that is a game-changer for a wide range of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, including smart cities, smart homes, and smart vehicles. With its advanced algorithms for detecting both motion and presence, as well as its high sensitivity and efficient signal processing capabilities, TMOS provides a more robust and reliable sensing solution. As we incorporate an increasingly interconnected world, TMOS technology will play a crucial role in creating smarter, safer, and more responsive environments.
Tom Bocchino is a Product Marketing Engineer and sensor specialist at STMicroelectronics with strategic focus on IoT platforms for building management, smart metering, and sustainable energy. Tom is enjoying the ride on the wave of new applications enabled by MEMS and new sensor technology.
Proponents of vertical farming paint a seductive picture: Fresh food without pesticides, increased production, reduced water consumption, use of vacant inner-city real estate, and more. Making this vision a reality requires precise control of light, temperature, water, and nutrients, and involves a wide range of IoT technologies, including sensors, robotics, and data analysis.
Contrary to the pastoral vision of golden fields of wheat swaying gently in the breeze, the vertical farm is closer to a factory than a farm (Figure 1). The technology is changing quickly: Commercial vertical farms are capital-intensive, require millions of dollars of investment to get started, and there is stiff competition from greenhouses and other indoor farming operations.
Figure 1: A vertical farm uses technology in a factory-like setting to ensure products of consistent quality. (Source: Mirai)
Vertical farms use technology at every part of the farming process, ranging from nursery operations to harvesting, as Figure 2 shows:
Figure 2: Technology can help improve every stage of the indoor farming process. (Source: Newbean Capital/Local Roots)
Large indoor growers use a wide range of automated devices, from automatic seeders to nursery robots that reposition pots. Since indoor agriculture is still a small market, few purpose-built pieces of equipment exist, so vertical farmers often adapt technologies from other industries.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can help create the optimal growing environment by controlling temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, air movement, and filtration. Plants grow quicker at higher CO2 levels than the atmosphere’s 400 parts per million (ppm): Tanks of CO2 increase CO2 levels in the vertical farm to around 1000 ppm.
Climate control systems run the gamut, from basic fans and heaters through to multi-functional control systems that incorporate the latest chiller, infrared, and UV sterilization technologies. The optimal system for any farm depends on several factors: Local regulations, farm size, type and locations, crop types, and, of course, budget. In selecting a system, there’s often a tradeoff between capital expenditure (CapEx) and operational expenditure (OpEx): More expensive systems tend to be more efficient and have lower operating costs.
Compared to the traditional farm that gets free energy from the sun, the vertical farm uses artificial light to promote faster growth, and the cost of energy is one of the largest line items on the budget.
Many vertical farms have traditionally used fluorescent lights; these are relatively cheap to buy, but LED lights, with their greater efficiency, consume about 60 percent less power for the same output. LEDs have technical advantages, too: Their light levels can be precisely controlled, and because they don’t emit much IR radiation (heat), they can be placed close to the plants for best light absorption. LEDs can also create the best combination of light spectrum and intensity that gives the most energy-efficient photosynthesis for each plant species.
Mirai in Japan, for example, uses 17,500 LED bulbs that provide the exact wavelengths that various crops need to thrive. According to the company, the new system has reduced power consumption by 40 percent and increased yields by 50 percent.
Longer term, researchers expect that organic LEDs (OLEDs), which use a film of organic compounds to generate light, will eventually become a more economical and efficient option.
The vertical farm is a closed environment, and farmers take strict steps to eliminate pests, pollen, or viruses. The precautions apply to humans, too: Before entering Mirai’s “Green Room,” workers must take hot showers, wash with shampoo and body soap, and change into sterilized work clothes.
Vertical farms don’t use soil as a growing medium to transfer nutrients to plant roots: Instead they use
For both methods, operators continually monitor all the macro- and micronutrients being supplied to the plants (Figure 3). Unlike a conventional operation, the water that evaporates from the plants into the atmosphere isn’t lost; air conditioners recover up to 98 percent of water in a vertical farm.
Figure 3: Vertical farms control every aspect of the growing process, from the placement of the lights to the nutrients applied to the roots. (Source: Aerofarms)
The result of the tight monitoring and control is that a vertical farm doesn’t use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides; the harvest can be ready in as little as 18 days, half the time of a conventional farm. Vertically farmed crops can contain considerably more vitamins and minerals than conventional produce: Mirai claims that their lettuce has up to ten times more beta-carotene and twice the vitamin C, calcium and magnesium of a standard product. In addition, no rinsing is needed and up to 95 percent is useful in cooking, compared to the usual 60 percent.
What is the next stage of vertical farming? Ruthless cost reduction and even less human involvement, so robots and drones are increasingly used. In Kyoto, Japan, SPREAD has just broken ground on its new “Techno Farm,” a 47,000SF, $175 million dollar factory that’s slated to produce 30,000 head of lettuce a day when it’s complete in 2018.
The farm will use robots that resemble “conveyer belts with arms,” according to TechInsider, to plant seeds, water and trim plants, and harvest them. Compared to SPREAD’s existing Kameoka plant factory, the Techno Farm will cut labor costs by 50 percent and energy costs by 30 percent.
Drones will reduce the number of human operators to monitor large areas. Suppliers to the industry are introducing lightweight drones that are suitable for monitoring crop conditions in large-scale indoor farms: Intel®, for example, offers its Aero Drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development platform that includes a wireless controller and the Intel® RealSense™ camera.
In conventional farming, data analytics provides farmers with both current and historical data on their crops. The information comes directly (from instrumented fields and equipment) and indirectly (via satellites and GPS tracking systems). Data metrics include soil quality and moisture, rainfall accumulation, fertilizer and pesticide levels, and crop yields.
State-of-the-art vertical farms view data collection and analysis as a key element in their business model, employing as many data scientists and engineers as they do agronomists and plant biologists. Aerofarms, for example, collects more than 10,000 measurements during a single growing cycle; the company uses this data to boost yields and quality, as well as to drive down costs towards the point that the vertical farm can be competitive with the best conventional methods.
The vertical farm makes extensive use of technology to grow plants in a factory environment. Just as on a traditional production line, workers and managers monitor and control every aspect of the crop to maximize yields and ensure consistent quality. The data gathered helps improve quality in future generations of “products.”
For more information about electronics in vertical farms, visit Mouser’s Shaping Smarter Cities website
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