SAN JOSE, Calif. --Sensor Platforms on Monday (Dec. 3) rolled out a
new version of its FreeMotion
software library with features that improve the context awareness of
mobile devices, making them smarter and less power-hungry.
The updates to FreeMotion are available in beta version this
quarter, with a production version expected late in the first
quarter of 2013. FreeMotion algorithms interpret sensor data
to infer detailed information, such as whether the device is in
motion, how the device is being carried, user posture of the user,
and the mode of transportation, such as car or plane.
The average office worker uses a mobile device about 6 percent of
his or her waking hours, said Ian Chen,
executive vice president.
"We thought surely sensors--since they'll be available 100 percent
of the time--there has to be something that sensors can do the other
94 percent of the time," Chen said.
In July, Sensor Platforms
announced FreeMotion supported all major
mobile microprocessors, including
- 32-bit embedded processors such as ARM’s Cortex-M, Atmel’s AVR
and Freescale’s ColdFire families used as sensor hubs
- 64-bit application processors such as Intel’s Atom, nVidia’s
Tegra, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, and TI’s OMAP processors used in
smartphones and tablets.
The library update means not only that designers can work to cut
power consumption (a device, for instance, would turn off GPS if
the user is stationary), but developers can build smarter
applications, such as preventing "butt-dialing" because the system
knows the phone is tucked in your back pocket.
FreeMotion customers choose a la carte the context algorithms they
want to use; Sensor Platforms derives revenue from taking a
percentage of unit shipments, Chen said. The software is designed
to be distributed architecturally, Chen said.
"However we decide
to partition ourselves today, we'd be wrong tomorrow. We can run
in the sensor hub or run a piece in the apps processor," he said.
FreeMotion's system-power benefits are in their early stages, Chen
"We have to start working with OEMS. Someone has to
make human-factor decisions," Chen said. "We can be aggressive in
turning off the backlight or GPS, but there may be
"Context-aware computing is coming," said Chen, who was featured
in EE Times' 40th anniversary coverage as an innovator to watch in
the coming years. "FreeMotion is an extension of context
Chen said Sensor Platforms' first-generation product
"led us to think how are people using sensors," in devices where
often there are to 18 different sensors built in.
He spent three
days analyzing all sensor-relevant apps on Google Play and
discovered that nearly half the apps are simply graphical
rerprsentation of whatever the sensor is telling them--a compass,
horizons finding, torque meter and so forth. (Surprisingly, Chen
found 10 percent of the apps he examined are used to
electromagnetic pulses to help people sense ghosts).
Such context-aware software is broadly applicable, Chen
acknowledges, pointing to dedicated systems for health-care
applications. He declined to comment on Sensor Platforms' military
engagements, other than to say "there are training application
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