BARCELONA — ARM Semiconductors announced last week it would jump into the open-source sensor hubs game by teaming with sensor algorithm company Sensor Platforms to produce an open-source software for sensor hub applications. Sensor Platform's Open Sensor Platform (OSP) is designed to simplify the use of sensors in applications and hardware by providing a flexible framework for more sophisticated interpretation and analysis of sensor data.
Coincidentally Sensor Platforms, which released an Android version of its OSP in April, is now being acquired by voice and audio company Audience for $41 million. The deal was announced last week and should close after June 30.
Most experts agree that the smartphone market is saturated, and new high-end devices, such as those from Apple, Samsung, HTC, and Sony, can not offer significant improvements over previous generations. This was obvious looking at this year's introduction of devices, in particular the Galaxy S5. As the kings of the premium smartphone market are now facing serious competition over features and performance from low-cost devices built by Nokia, Motorola, and OnePlus, they are focusing less on hardware improvements. Rather, Apple, Samsung, and Sony are focusing on integration with other devices, mostly with their own wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands.
Until now, the use of sensors and hubs in wearables and mobile has been managed by the software developed by the devices' manufacturers. Application developers needed to interface with different APIs without an overall standard. Sensor Platform's OSP frees developers to focus on their application features rather than coding for each sensor interface.
"Contextual, sensing information is becoming more important as end devices for the Internet of Things rapidly proliferate," says Charlene Marini, vice president of marketing for ARM's embedded segment. "As an open source platform for sensor fusion fundamentals, OSP will enable a community of developers to accelerate new functionality for ongoing innovation in sensor hubs across applications. As a result, we should see devices and applications that are more aware of their user and their environment, making technology more useful for all."
The first sample implementation of OSP is a sensor hub for the Android 4.4 (KitKat) operating system. It provides always-on sensor data using the Android Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) and will allow manufactures to quickly integrate sensors into new products, an ARM press release stated.
“The partnership between ARM and Sensor Platforms bodes well for future technology partnerships that will elevate the applications for smart sensing technologies,” Lavanya Rammohan, senior analyst with Compass Intelligence, tells EE Times. “Truly open sensor platforms will facilitate overall efficiency in communication across all verticals. In addition, these partnerships will trickle adoption from consumer electronics applications into industrial, smart factories, etc. We can expect to see many more strategic and symbiotic partnerships over the course of next three years.”
ARM officials say sensor fusion developers will have access to existing open-source algorithms to build or modify their own apps, or buy from commercial third-party libraries. Likewise, sensor hub MCU vendors will have a complete sensor ecosystem, and OEMs will be able to "quickly evaluate different sensors, sensor hubs, and sensor algorithms."
"NXP is pleased to see the Open Sensor Platform (OSP) framework released on GitHub with enhancements from ARM to leverage the mbed platform," says John Rayfield, senior director of architecture and ecosystem at NXP Semiconductors. "The OSP framework simplifies deployment of our ultralow power microcontrollers in sensor-based applications and can accelerate time to market in these application spaces."
— Pablo Valerio is a freelance blogger who writes about mobile and telecom issues for EE Times. He lives and works in Barcelona.
Associate Editor Jessica Lipsky contributed to this article.