Autonomy value: The next value for sensors suppliers

By Nishita Rao

Nicolas Sauvage, senior director of Ecosystem at TDK InvenSense, will present at the fast-approaching MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress on October 29-30, 2018 in Napa, Calif. SEMI’s Nishita Rao spoke with Sauvage to offer MSEC attendees advance insights on Sauvage’s feature presentation.

SEMI: What is “autonomy value” and why is it important?

Sauvage: How do you increase the perceived value of an electronic device? If it’s an autonomous car, its value is closely tied to the autonomy level — i.e., the independence — that it offers people. Higher autonomy value for a self-driving car, for example, means that even a blind person could use it. It’s been almost two years since Waymo demonstrated this, and here’s the video that shows it.

Countless other sensor-based electronic products have their own “autonomy value.” Imagine the need to get medicine to people during a humanitarian health crisis. Drones could be your best option because they can deliver to inaccessible or remote locations. Unlike older drones, which require active piloting by a person, a drone with higher autonomy value could deliver medicine to Doctors Without Borders without ongoing human intervention.

This drone could navigate objects, such as trees and birds, and would have excellent location-awareness. It could fly through any landscape in bright sunlight or during the night. To increase the drone’s autonomy value, you would need better sensors, including those sensors that can enable sensing in sunny conditions or in pitch-black night, as well as better machine learning.

SEMI: In this example, what types of sensors would the drone manufacturer need?

Sauvage: The manufacturer would need a “surrounding-sensing” solution that includes ultrasonic and pressure sensors as well as image sensors. Start with high-quality image sensors combined with ultrasonic range-finding sensors — high-accuracy devices that function in all lighting conditions and can detect objects of any color. Add motion sensors and a pressure sensor, which would capture the height of the drone to make known the drone’s location in space. The drone would need this combination of sensors, plus smart sensor fusion, because GPS alone cannot avoid obstacles: its signal can be sporadic in certain parts of the world or in certain terrain, making it unreliable.

A key attribute of all these sensors would be low power consumption since the drone would run on battery.

SEMI: To what extent might autonomy value cause manufacturers to consider multi-vendor solutions?

Sauvage: I would like to see it inspire the MEMS and sensors ecosystem to work together, to arrive at multi-vendor solutions that will benefit humanity through greater autonomy value. Whether we’re looking at autonomous cars, drones, robotics or other applications, there are cases where we need to prioritize safety and security over industry competition.

SEMI: Where are we today in terms of achieving true autonomy value – and where are we going?

Sauvage: The sky is the limit, literally. Machine learning and surrounding-sensing solutions applied to cars, drones and robots will increase autonomy value to the point where we can justifiably call it artificial intelligence.

SEMI: What would you like MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress attendees to take away from your presentation?

Sauvage: I hope that attendees will recognize the value of ecosystem solutions in increasing autonomy value. Together we can expand the variety of sensor types that address novel use-cases and jobs-to-be-done. Instead of waiting for customers to ask for ecosystem-level solutions, we need to articulate a complete MEMS and sensors supply-chain ecosystem if we want the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to grow more quickly.

As senior director of Ecosystem, Nicholas Sauvage is responsible for all strategic relationships, including Google and Qualcomm, and other HW/SW/System companies. He is also responsible for strategic and market-driven goal-setting of our SensorStudio developer program, and driving select partnerships with SoC sensor hub platforms. Prior to joining InvenSense, Nicolas was part of NXP Software management team, responsible for worldwide sales, as well as for P&L and product management of their OEM Business Line. Nicolas is an alumnus of Institut supérieur d’électronique et du numérique, London Business School and INSEAD.

Register today to connect with Nicolas Sauvage at the event. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.

Nishita Rao is a marketing manager at SEMI.

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