The booming MEMS industry held its annual executive Congress last month in Monterey, Calif. Welcoming attendees, Karen Lightman, executive director of the MEMS Industry Group, effused that MEMs are “frickin’ everywhere!” And it seemed she wasn’t exaggerating; these little chips that tell Wii controllers that you’re swinging your virtual tennis racket and iPhones that you’re giving them a shake are popping up in unexpected places, including pills, ski goggles, and surfboards.
Says Shawn Dubravac, director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association: “All this data—from surfing, from skiing—existed but wasn’t being captured. MEMs can capture this data and turn it into bits, and we can do things with those bits” on connected devices, like smart phones.
MEMs are getting cheap enough, Dubravac says, that manufacturers can start loading them into products even though many users don’t need all their capabilities. “I think we’re at the sweet spot so these things can be wasted,” said Dubravac. And that, he pointed out, is when things get really interesting and innovation happens.
Here’s how surfers are starting to use MEMs devices, as described by Syride’s Romain Lazerand.
Ski goggle manufacturers are shipping MEMs-device-ready goggles, according to Dan Eisenhardt, CEO of Recon Instruments.
And in the healthcare world, Proteus Biomedical is waiting FDA approval of its ingestible sensor, says vice president of product engineering Ben Costello.
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Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.