SEMI-MEMS & Sensors Industry Group Blog

Autonomous Mobility and the New Age of Sensor Fusion

By Maria Vetrano

Marcellino Gemelli, director of global business development at Bosch Sensortec, will present at the upcoming MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress on October 29-30, 2018 in Napa, Calif. SEMI’s Maria Vetrano caught up with Gemelli to give MSEC attendees a preview of Gemelli’s feature presentation.

Sensor fusion — the integration of different types of sensors through software algorithms to increase overall system performance and/or reduce power consumption— has come a long way since its inception. In those early days, sensor fusion generally involved MEMS inertial sensors only. The advent of new sensor varieties, including environmental sensors, is making new use cases a reality. Gemelli will explore the ways in which the next generation of sensor fusion is improving autonomous mobility devices.

SEMI: Why are environmental sensors important to autonomous mobility devices?

Gemelli: When most of us think of autonomous systems, we think that they are driven by motion sensors and proximity sensors (e.g., radar, Lidar). When vertical location comes into play, however, in applications such as drones or asset tracking, pressure sensors become an integral part of flight control, navigation and positioning in GPS-challenged areas.

While not commonly considered an electronically enabled sense, the ability to “smell” the environment opens new opportunities. The quality of a user’s experience with personal cleaning robots and robo-taxis are good examples of where we might want to enable scent detection.

SEMI: I’ve never thought much about using sensors to detect smell. How would a robo-taxi or a cleaning robot benefit from scent detection?

Gemelli: Fully autonomous cars will inevitably give rise to robo-taxis. In fact, last month Volvo announced its fully electric robo-taxi, and in March 2018 Waymo announced that Jaguar Land Rover’s SUV would join Fiat Chrysler’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans in its planned fleet of robo-taxis, so we may see robo-taxis in the U.S. within the next five years.

With robo-taxis fast-approaching, we need technologies that provide the same level of oversight that a taxi driver once fulfilled. Gas sensors would function like an electronic nose (e-nose) in a robo-taxi to inform the taxi’s owner of prohibited passenger behavior, such as eating, drinking or smoking in the vehicle, which could potentially damage the vehicle’s interior. Camera sensors could record the act as proof of the offense.

Cleaning robots would be more sophisticated than they are today. In addition to leveraging image and range-finding sensors to more accurately map the rooms in your house, they could also detect scents from spilled red wine, pet urine or other foreign materials. When the cleaning robot, such as a vacuum, detects the foreign substance, it would navigate around the substance instead of going through it and spreading it all over the carpet.

In addition to robo-taxis and cleaning robots, I will also discuss asset tracking and drones.

SEMI: What role does sensor fusion play in autonomous mobility devices?

Gemelli: Combining sensor fusion with artificial intelligence (AI) will generate new use cases and therefore new markets for sensor suppliers.

There is another major benefit as well. With so many connected devices in our lives — including those with cameras, location awareness and always-listening capabilities — we are seeing growing concern about user privacy. Sensor fusion and AI can help to alleviate this concern: By supporting more local processing, they allow for greater control of data, safeguarding personal privacy.

SEMI: Who is responsible for the AI part of the sensor-fusion equation?

Gemelli: AI is a new frontier for MEMS and sensors suppliers. It benefits us and our customers to embrace AI algorithms through in-house development and/or partnerships.

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

Gemelli: I plan to issue a call to action to increase research in hybrid sensor-fusion software architectures, including AI, as suppliers’ collaboration will benefit the industry at large.

Marcellino Gemelli is currently based in Palo Alto (CA) responsible for business development of Bosch Sensortec’s MEMS product portfolio.  He received the ‘Laurea’ degree in Electronic Engineering at the University of Pavia, Italy while in the Italian Army and an MBA from MIP, the Milano (Italy) Polytechnic business school.  He previously held various engineering and product management positions at STMicroelectronics from 1995 to 2011 in the fields of MEMS, electronic design automation and data storage. He was contract professor for the Microelectronics course at the Milano (Italy) Polytechnic from 2000 to 2002.

Marcellino Gemelli will present Environmental Sensors Systems Enabling Autonomous Mobility on Tuesday, October 30 at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress in Napa Valley, Calif.

Register today to learn more about the connection between sensor fusion, AI and next-generation autonomous mobility devices.


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