KYOTO, Japan—Omron Corp. is expanding from its traditional medical and industrial markets for micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) chips into mobile consumer devices and green energy. By repurposing its pressure sensors, radio-frequency switches and thermal infrared sensing arrays for these new markets, Omron hopes to gain design wins in smartphones, navigation and building automation.
Omron's traditional market for its pressure sensors range from their widespread blood pressure monitors to industrial applications in process control. However, by sealing the backside of its piezo-resistive pressure sensor with a silicon-to-silicon bonding technique, the company repurposed them from sensing pressure relative to atmospheric-levels to sensing absolute pressures. The new absolute pressure sensors are intended to be used in smartphones and other navigation devices that can detect what floor you are on in a building (see graphic).
By sealing the backside of its MEMS pressure sensor, altitude detection can inform navigation units of what floor you are occupying in a building.
The company is also repurposing for the mobile phone market its MEMS fab in Yasu, Japan, which produces RF switches using ohmic contacts. The tiny single-pole, double throw MEMS relays that can now handle signals from DC all the way up to 3GHz, enabling applications such as switching in and out antenna filters for different bands.
Omron has also expanded its MEMS thermal sensor technology by developing an array of eight side-by-side proximity detectors that can determine whether occupants are present in a room regardless of whether they are moving or not, allowing building automation systems to switch off heating, ventilation and air-conditioning to unoccupied rooms.
A decade ago Omron told me that they were going to enter the medical electronics market, after conquering the market for electronic-turnstyles in Japanese subways. Now Omron is almost synonymous with blood-pressure electronics. So when they say to me that they are gearing up to enter the consumer market for MEMS chips, I pay attention. Look for Omron to likewise conquer the MEMS chip market for consumer electronics within three to seven years. WEBLOG: http://NextGenLog.org TWITTER: @NextGenLog
This is something really unique. Yes there are innumerable of MEMS sensors present in the market but merging them with the smartphones is not easy task. If Omron can achieve this feat I am sure they will be tough competitors to beat.
Cool move for Omron. They are already in the consumer electronics business with over-the-counter blood pressure 'gadgets'. See teardown of of one here: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cmp/eetimes_medelec_20101108/#/54/OnePage.
Can't be a too tough to enter the mobile consumer devices market. Pressure sensors will be everywhere and MEMS is the enabling technology for integration and high volume.