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MEMS Sensor Hub Goes All-in-One

PNI's M&M mini-boards bootstrap IoT apps
11/11/2014 12:05 PM EST
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George H.
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Re: Difference between low and high end?
George H.   11/13/2014 3:56:39 PM
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You're welcome, @LarryM99!  Of course, the high performance market will always be looking to use lower cost components whenever and wherever possible.  That is the compelling nature of economics.  One thing that I failed to mention was the fact that all of Precision Navigation's module products use far higher performance sensor components (ergo, higher cost) than the ones on PNI's M&M modules, which are the exact same low cost, lower performance sensors used in the mobile market.  Again, the M&M modules were meant to help evaluate what's possible with those mass market sensors, while the high performance sensors used in the Precison Navigation products are selected for long term stability in the field.  The issue with self learning fusion algorithms is that they can occasionally mis-learn and actually momentarily mis-calibrate the sensors and there is no guarantee of when and where that can heppen.  Like anything else, it's all about the accuracy bell curve.  Some applications can tolerate a wider curve while others require a super narrow one, and that's what gets expensive.  I recently upgraded my headphone earbuds.  I've always been using a $20 pair and was impressed by how good a relatively cheap pair of buds had become, but I accidentally left them at home on a recent business trip, so I went to the airport electronics store and asked the salesman why some of the buds were priced at $200 and how it could possibly be worth it.  While not saying a whole lot, he just pulled the pair out of the box and told me to have a listen on my iPhone.  All I can say is that when I listened to the same old songs, I heard things that I had never heard before, and in a depth and richness that shocked me.  Needless to say I bought them for my flight.  Like most things, the last 10% of increased performance comprises 90% of the cost.  Sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn't, but that decision has to be made by the user of the technology.  I very much appreciate your insightful comments, by the way!

LarryM99
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Re: Difference between low and high end?
LarryM99   11/13/2014 1:48:10 PM
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Thanks, @George, it does give me some clarity. But your comment about the redundancy in the cheaper models gives a glimpse of a not-too-distant future when the difference between the two becomes much less clear. I have to think that the writing is on the wall regarding the expensive high-end sensors.

Larry M.

George H.
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Re: Difference between low and high end?
George H.   11/11/2014 7:07:22 PM
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Larry, you make an excellent point.  The modules that Precision Navigation will now continue to produce are very "high touch" in that each one goes through varying levels of factory calibration (depending upon which model) to ensure a minimum accuracy and reliability under use.  The highest grade module, the Trax, goes through extensive temperature cycling, as well as angular rate, pitch and roll and magnetic field calibration.  It takes many hours to produce each one of them, not to mention the "aging" process that requires setting aside each unit for 1 month to allow the soldering induced stresses to relax and equilibrate even before the sensors can be reliably calibrated.  These products are meant for mission critical applications.  

On the other hand, the M&M modules that PNI Sensor is offering are meant for the rapid prototyping and evaluation of the SENtral, which is a sensor hub with embedded fusion algorithms that targets high volume applications such as mobile phones and wearables.  There are numerous autocalibration algorithms constantly running in the background processes of the SENtral that can do some amazing things with completely uncalibrated sensors, but there are no guarantees that the fused output results will ALWAYS be accurate to within the targeted accuracy specifications even for the intended use cases.  The SENtral is designed with "no touch" in mind, so that its users can put millions of them into devices each month without having to do anything in the way of calibration or additional testing.  Although it might be annoying for a cell phone user to momentarily have an error of 15 degrees while orienting a Google map while walking, or to see an orientation blip while playing a motion-based video game, the consequences are dramatically different than when a far-target location system used to call in supporting artillery fire is off by 2 degrees just when the azimuth is being locked in.  Precision Navigation's modules address applications and markets where even missing the accuracy specification 2% of the time is unacceptable, while PNI's SENtral is targeted at applications and markets where having inaccuracies 2% of the time is considered more than adequate.  I hope this provides some insight.

George H.

krisi
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Re: Difference between low and high end?
krisi   11/11/2014 4:07:53 PM
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I always wonder why companies need to bi-furcate...

LarryM99
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Difference between low and high end?
LarryM99   11/11/2014 3:58:36 PM
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So PNI is splitting off a division to do low-cost integrated sensors and maintaining a separate company for its traditional high-end systems? If they are making significant improvements to the former, at what point do they surpass the functionality of the latter? Right now I am fighting the limitations and cost of the PNI CompassPoint Prime in an industrial application, but I have to wonder if we would be better off looking at these guys. How much difference is there in terms of sensitivity, accuracy, etc?

Larry M.

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