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DECEMBER 2014

The

Platform Approach:

Honeywell’s

TruStability

Offers Millions of Sensor Variations Interview with Ashis Bhattacharya President of Global Strategic Marketing & Business Development at Honeywell

Hands-free Gesture Recognition Family Lifestyle Smart Homes


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due to presence of an ty. The rawcounts plot reacting to the hand t line from left to igure 2 (a)—is shown in t confirms the order of s mentioned above. If he opposite direction, esture, and the ensors are triggered pect to the left and above mentioned quences. That is, the ga if your doors and windows and closed and ds locked—and if theyone are not locked, quence will be of some ga systems will enable you to remotely lock e remote them. But wouldn’t it be even better for gesture: ght → left) ous home the house to be smart enough to realize

CONTENTS

SENSOR TECHNOLOGY Figure 1.

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that the family is out of the house, and the doors and windows should be locked?

→ bottom → left

This is the intelligent house: a network of sentrollers (sensors, controllers and actuators) all linked together with cloudbased intelligence to enable the house to think and act autonomously. While, the homeowner still has complete control over the cloud to monitor and control what the house is doing, they do not have to continuously monitor the functions.

om → top → left

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→ left

This technology has many benefits for senior citizens who want to live at home longer, but are concerned about something happening to them. Unfortunately, senior citizens could have a serious accident—like falling and breaking a hip, or simply not being capable of getting out of bed—and may be unable to get help for days. Devices like fall detectors or alarm buttons (or even a smart phone) could help solve the problem, but often these accidents occur when the device is out of reach. In a serious medical emergency, the person may not be able to trigger the device for help.

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down) and (down→ d with simple actions wn the menu or a track hown in Figure 3.

CONTENTS

Capacitive proximity sensors placed around infotainment system on the right picture and the sensors with their position labeled on the left picture.

TECH REPORT

Figure 2a. Left to right hand movement gesture drawing a straight line in air.

Gesture Sensing in Automotive Displays Places Driver Focus Back on the Road Honeywell’s platform continues to enable customers

TECH REPORT

to be proactive with sensors, which is valuable because designers have not always realized that the sensor can heavily influence theFigure design2b. of the product.

Family Lifestyle Systems Plot of signal for each of the sensors Making the asSmart Home Even Smarter hand draws

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High Stakes, High Reliability

the straight-line

With the development of the TruStability gesture. Platform, Honeywell can now target the markets that need stability the most. According to Bhattacharya, Thethese Family Lifestyle A smart home Family Lifestyle System sensors that monitor the movement markets are Solutions consist is a network of sensors connected of doors, cupboards, appliances, and aerospace, of amedical, network to the Internet. The network gathers all the normal objects in the home of sentrollers, and industrial. “Our intelligence in the cloud and analyzes that we interact with on a daily basis. connected to the the activity data and compares it sensors web. The data play a with previously registered activity The Family Lifestyle System can gathered is analyzed critical role in by intelligence data that should be expected from monitor when the resident usually in the cloud, andcustomer’s enabling within the home. If there is a problem, gets up out of bed in the morning, is controlled an alert is sent to the family, to what energy they consume and devices,” he stated. and managed by a caregiver, or to the appropriate when, when they typically leave Figure 3. a smartphone In the case of medical emergency response team. the home and return, when the or other webdevices, refrigerator door usually opened Proximity gesture ofBhattacharya hand controlled device. The Family Lifestyle System consists of to cook meals—the opportunities gave the example of ventilators that drawing a straight line in a combination of motion sensors and and variables are endless. need to sense the slightest shifts from vertical direction inhaleto to scroll exhale. Honeywell’s sensors enable this critical application where through menu. The TruStability Platform’s the pressure of inhalation is so light it low-drift characteristics help is barely noticeable. The TruStability Platform’s low-drift characteristics help maintain high accuracy no matter maintain high accuracy no matter how how long the device has been in use, long the device has been in use, which is a key factor in always-on ventilation and which is a key factor in monitoring. “The level of performance always-on ventilation and dependence that our customers have on these sensors is tremendous,” and monitoring. Bhattacharya remarked. “This requires a lot of background engineering, marketing, and manufacturing sophistication.”

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For aerospace, the dependence on pressure sensors heightens the need for reliability and stability. When an aircraft is coming in to land, it is critical to ensure that the wings remain straight no matter how the joystick is affected so that the plane lands safely. Honeywell developed a specific sensor that determines when the weight of the plane is on the wheels of the aircraft—not the wings—so that it can be steered on the ground upon landing. “In concept, it is an extremely simple sensor,” Bhattacharya explained, “but it has to perform under high stakes over long periods of time.” These highstakes applications can now stably operate no matter how rigorous or slight the external parameters are. With the proliferation of sensors, comes an increase in expectations of reliability and stability. As Bhattacharya stated: “Customers are beginning to realize that having the right sensors can make all of the difference in device performance.”

Honeywell’sTruStability Platform Millions of Sensor Variations ®

INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

TruStability Enables Innovation Interview with Honeywell’s Ashis Bhattacharya

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“Designers don’t always realize that the sensor can heavily influence the design of a product.” Pg. 22

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Hands-free

GESTURE SENSING in Automotive Displays

By Vikram Senior Applications Engineer Cypress Semiconductor

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TECH REPORT

Capacitive Proximity Sensors Place Driver Focus Back on the Road Capacitive proximity sensors are generally used to detect the presence of a user within proximity of the sensors. Upon detection, the user can choose to make backlights glow, to bring focus on a specific button, or bring a system out of low-power operation after having sensed their presence. Specific to automotive applications, capacitive proximity sensors are used to sense a user and turn on the cabin lights or activate the keyless door unlocking

system. In addition to sensing the presence of a user near the sensor, multiple proximity sensors can be placed suitably to recognize simple hand gestures in the air. The data from all sensors can be combined together to map movement of a user’s hand in the proximity area of sensors. These gestures can be used as a way to provide inputs to systems—to control a media player, navigate a map, or browse a playlist.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

M

ultiple proximity sensors can be placed in a suitable pattern spatially apart from one other. As a hand moves across the sensors, the time instants at which it is detected by each of the sensors will be different. The relative order of detection of the hand and the time duration between detection by different sensors can be used to estimate the direction and pace of movement of hand. Gestures can be as simple as drawing a straight line in the air by moving the hand from left to right over the sensors, or drawing a circle in air. In this article, we will look at how to implement simple gesture recognition and how more complicated gestures can be implemented using multiple sensors in different patterns. Consider four capacitive proximity sensors arranged as shown in Figure 1 around the infotainment system of a car. Placement of the sensors needs to be chosen such that there is a difference in the order in which sensors are triggered when the hand makes a gesture over the sensor plane. We identify the order in which sensors are triggered by hand movements. If the order matches any of the preset sequences, then the corresponding gesture is issued. The sensor placement pattern shown in Figure 1 serves as a reference for explaining the gestures discussed in this article. Consider a simple gesture of a hand drawing a straight line in air by moving from left to right over the sensors as shown in Figure 2(a). When hand moves from left to right over the sensors, the left sensor will be triggered first as soon as

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the hand approaches the system. Here the term ‘triggered’ is used to mean that the sensor has detected an object in its presence; this is not to be mistaken for enabling the proximity sensor. The proximity sensors are enabled as soon as the system is turned on and they keep scanning for objects in their proximity. As the hand continues to pass over the console, the top and bottom sensors are triggered while the left sensor still remains triggered. As the hand moves further towards the right sensor, the right sensor is triggered. The left sensor stops sensing the hand because the hand has moved outside its region of detection. As the hand passes over the right sensor, the top and bottom sensors will no longer detect the hand’s presence. When the hand moves further away, the right sensor stops sensing the hand. If we look at the order of triggering of sensors, it will be one of the below, depending upon the position of the hand and sensitivities of the individual sensors: Left → top → bottom → right Left → bottom → top → right Left → bottom → right Left → top → right All of the above sensor activation sequences are mapped to the (left → right) gesture. A PSoC is used in this case for implementing the capacitive proximity sensors. A capacitance-to-digital converter (known as Capsense Sigma Delta) inside the PSoC is used to measure the capacitance. The output of the CSD module is referred to as rawcounts. The


TECH REPORT higher the rawcounts, the greater the capacitance sensed by the sensor. The presence of a hand close to the proximity sensors increases their capacitance. When rawcounts of the sensor cross a certain threshold from its base value, the sensor is triggered due to presence of an object in its proximity. The rawcounts plot of the four sensors reacting to the hand as it draws a straight line from left to right—as shown in Figure 2 (a)—is shown in Figure 2 (b). The plot confirms the order of activation of sensors mentioned above. If the hand moves in the opposite direction, it is a (right → left) gesture, and the sequence in which sensors are triggered is reversed with respect to the left and right sensors in the above mentioned sensor activation sequences. That is, the sensor triggering sequence will be one of those below for a (right → left) gesture:

Figure 1. Capacitive proximity sensors placed around infotainment system on the right picture and the sensors with their position labeled on the left picture.

Figure 2a. Left to right hand movement gesture drawing a straight line in air.

Right → top → bottom → left Right → bottom → top → left Right → bottom → left Right → top → left The above two gestures mentioned involve movement of the hand in the horizontal direction. Similarly, if the hand draws a straight line in the vertical direction, then it can be either a (top→bottom) gesture or a (bottom→top) gesture, depending on the direction of the hand movement. The gestures (up → down) and (down→ up) can be associated with simple actions like scrolling up, down the menu or a track list for example as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 2b. Plot of signal for each of the sensors as hand draws the straight-line gesture.

Figure 3. Proximity gesture of hand drawing a straight line in vertical direction to scroll through menu.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

When the hand moves from the top sensor down towards the bottom sensor, the system decodes this as a (top → bottom) gesture as soon as the hand moves past the bottom sensor. We can modify the gesture so that the scroll-down command is sent as soon as the hand reaches the last sensor in the gesture sequence—in this case, the bottom sensor.

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The gestures (left → right) and (right → left) can be associated with changing a track or album to the next one for a music player application. The same gestures can also be used instead of button presses to turn interior lights of a car on or off by placing proximity sensors as shown in Figure 4. A gesture of (top → bottom) is similar to the up/down action of a button press. However, when an up/down button is held pressed, the screen keeps scrolling up/down as long as the button is held pressed. In other words, the actions ‘stick’ as long as the button is pressed. To replace this button action completely with a gesture, the gesture needs to be able to support this ‘sticky’ feature too. We will modify the gesture as described below to accommodate this. When the hand moves from the top sensor down towards the bottom sensor, the system decodes this as a (top → bottom) gesture as soon as the hand moves past the bottom sensor. We can modify the gesture so that the scrolldown command is sent as soon as the hand reaches the last sensor in the gesture sequence—in this case, the bottom sensor. Furthermore, the command is issued repeatedly as long as the hand remains present over the bottom sensor. When the menu item required is reached, the hand moves further down and away from the bottom sensor and the issuing of scroll down command is stopped. To make a ‘sticky’ gesture, instead of moving the hand away from the system in one go, we stop the hand on the last sensor just before moving out of the range of that senor. The command is issued as long as the hand stays over the sensor.


TECH REPORT A rawcounts plot for top and bottom sensors for this sticky (top → bottom) gesture is shown in Figure 5. The bottom sensor continues to stay triggered for more time after the top sensor stops sensing the hand. This indicates that the hand has stopped at the bottom sensor instead of continuing straight down. To issue the sticky command, we check if the top sensor was triggered first, followed by the triggering of the bottom sensor. The top sensor no longer senses a hand while the bottom sensor still continues to sense a hand near it. After the hand stays near the bottom sensor for more than a threshold of time, the sticky command is issued as long as the bottom sensor senses the hand near it. Similarly, other gestures can also be modified to have the ‘sticky’ feature. This enables gestures to replace the up/ down button functions completely. Next, let us make a slightly more complicated gesture. Consider drawing a circle in air by hand over the sensor plane as shown in Figure 6. The hand can start over any of the sensors, traversing in a circular pattern— either clockwise or counterclockwise— over the other sensors. The gesture is completed when hand reaches the original sensor, exiting the loop by simply moving away. For example, the hand can move over the right sensor and then move clockwise over the bottom, left, and top sensors in that order before exiting the loop over the right sensor again. A rawcounts plot of sensors for the same is shown in Figure 7. Similarly, a counterclockwise loop can be completed

Figure 4. Hand drawing a straight-line gesture to control the cabin lights of a car.

Figure 5. Signal plot for top and bottom sensors for sticky (top → bottom) gesture. The signal on the bottom sensor stays on, longer indicating a ‘sticky’ gesture.

Figure 6. Drawing a circle gesture.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

by reversing the direction of movement of the hand. Also, multiple rotations can be counted from the sensor excitation order. The circle gesture is similar to the action of turning a knob. This can be associated with commands like volume up and down for the music player menu or zoom in and zoom out for browsing maps. Proximity hand gestures using capacitive proximity sensors will enable the user to control the conditions in the car without taking their eyes off the road. Using these same principles, we can build more complex gestures, which may involve using both hands to draw a pattern in air. However, the success of detection of such gestures still depends on how good a sensor pattern is. It is important to choose a suitable pattern that allows for tolerance in hand movements while drawing gestures and yet have a clear distinction in the order in which the sensors are triggered.

Figure 7. Rawcounts plot of sensors for a clockwise circular gesture.

The circle gesture is similar to the action of turning a knob. This can be associated with

About the Author Vikram is currently working as a Senior Applications Engineer at Cypress Semiconductor. His interests include working on embedded systems and mixed signal designs. He loves robotics as a hobby. He can be reached at viks@cypress.com.

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commands like volume up and down for the music player menu or zoom in and zoom out for browsing maps.


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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

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TECH REPORT

Family Lifestyle Systems Make the

Smart Home Even More Intelligent

Today’s “connected home” is rapidly transforming into the “smart home.” Billions of people worldwide are connected to the Internet, with many homes having at least 10 WiFiconnected devices such as computers, games, entertainment systems, phones, and tablets. By Cees Links, Founder and CEO of GreenPeak

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

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e are currently seeing a gradual move towards homes implementing a network of sensors that enable remote monitoring and control of various home systems such as air conditioning and heating, lighting, and security. However exciting as these advances are, this is not really the Internet of Things— this is still the Internet of People. People are still involved in reviewing the data coming from these sensors and they make decisions regarding how they want the home to react. In determining whether the door should open or close, if the windows should be locked, or if the coffee maker should brew a pot—the user is still needed. The home is on the path to becoming smarter, but is not intelligent. For example, current leak detectors can inform the homeowner if there is a leak in the water heater or another part of the home’s plumbing. The detector informs the owner of the leak and they can make a decision on how to handle it. However, wouldn’t it be easier if once the leak is detected, the house would be smart enough to simply turn off the water to the damaged circuit? This would ultimately prevent even more hot water from leaking, reducing damage while cutting water and energy costs. Another option is the simple door lock. There are systems on the market that make it possible to remotely check to see

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if your doors and windows and closed and locked—and if they are not locked, some systems will enable you to remotely lock them. But wouldn’t it be even better for the house to be smart enough to realize that the family is out of the house, and the doors and windows should be locked? This is the intelligent house: a network of sentrollers (sensors, controllers and actuators) all linked together with cloudbased intelligence to enable the house to think and act autonomously. While, the homeowner still has complete control over the cloud to monitor and control what the house is doing, they do not have to continuously monitor the functions. This technology has many benefits for senior citizens who want to live at home longer, but are concerned about something happening to them. Unfortunately, senior citizens could have a serious accident—like falling and breaking a hip, or simply not being capable of getting out of bed—and may be unable to get help for days. Devices like fall detectors or alarm buttons (or even a smart phone) could help solve the problem, but often these accidents occur when the device is out of reach. In a serious medical emergency, the person may not be able to trigger the device for help. But what if the house was intelligent enough to realize that something was not quite right? The active individual is not active anymore. Until now.


TECH REPORT

A smart home Family Lifestyle System is a network of sensors connected to the Internet. The network gathers intelligence in the cloud and analyzes the activity data and compares it with previously registered activity data that should be expected from within the home. If there is a problem, an alert is sent to the family, to a caregiver, or to the appropriate emergency response team. The Family Lifestyle System consists of a combination of motion sensors and

sensors that monitor the movement of doors, cupboards, appliances, and all the normal objects in the home that we interact with on a daily basis. The Family Lifestyle System can monitor when the resident usually gets up out of bed in the morning, what energy they consume and when, when they typically leave the home and return, when the refrigerator door usually opened to cook meals—the opportunities and variables are endless.

The Family Lifestyle Solutions consist of a network of sentrollers, connected to the web. The data gathered is analyzed by intelligence in the cloud, and is controlled and managed by a smartphone or other webcontrolled device.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Family Lifestyle technology is able to monitor a wide range of home activities while also providing a strong sense of privacy and confidentiality.

The Family Lifestyle application learns the behavior of the user, which can also be analyzed to determine abnormalities. Going back to the examples—it is not normal when a house is empty, but the backdoor is unlocked; it is not normal when the water continuously flows for days; it is not normal when it is 8AM and the active resident has not opened the fridge; and it is not normal that the resident does not leave the bathroom after more than two hours. Using text messages, smartphone apps, or social media, a Family Lifestyle System can send an alert to family members or friends about the resident’s whereabouts, lack of activity, or behavior outside the expected patterns. It can create a safety net where not only do the people who are being monitored feel safer and more secure, but the people who care about them also feel comfortable with the realization that if something goes wrong, the Intelligent Home—via the Family Lifestyle System—will inform them. Family Lifestyle Systems just require small, unobtrusive sensors to be installed around the house, whether it is on doors, appliances, or inside drawers. The sensors are battery powered, making installation easier—just stick them wherever they are needed. If you need to change location, just stick them somewhere else. There is no need for drilling holes or running cables for power or for data. Family Lifestyle technology is able to monitor a wide range of home

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activities while also providing a strong sense of privacy and confidentiality. To ensure privacy, no cameras are needed for this system. This is a big step forward compared to expensive camera-based systems available today, which can intrude on privacy. Overall security is also important—the Family Lifestyle System uses an 802.15.4-based wireless technology, ZigBee, to handle communications between the various devices and the Control Box/gateway. It enjoys the same high level of security as found with WiFi, currently used in hundreds of millions of homes worldwide to transmit a great many forms of highly confidential and sensitive data. Within the next decade, Family Lifestyle Systems will become a completely new segment on its own. Both cable and telecom operators as well as retailer installations will be able to take advantage of this new market opportunity. One interesting challenge is determining who pays for it. What will the business model be? Will the hardware be free with a monthly subscription fee (as with many phone contracts), or will consumers be asked to pay for the hardware? With troves of real-world human data being gathered for analysis, there is even the possibility that advertising and marketing firms may want to step in and sponsor some of the cost in return for the right to see this comprehensive real-word human activity information.


TECH REPORT

Another big challenge is to overcome what happens when there are Internet outages. It is clear that as dependency on systems increase, a robust and reliable back-up system will be required. As most of the sensors will be battery powered, they will keep operating but the connection to the web and the rest of the world may be out. One effective option is a store-andforward process. As soon as the web connection is reconnected all the information is resent. In addition, the system provides an alert delivered to family members’ smartphones that the Internet connection is down or was down.

Summary Connected homes are becoming commonplace and starting to evolve into smart homes. Smart homes, using a network of sentrollers and cloud intelligence will take the next step, evolving from a system of Internet of Human Intervention to the real Internet of Things, where our homes become intelligent and autonomous, and are able to monitor and take care of the human being inside. Smartphones are picking up a new role: they are becoming the dashboards of our homes, enabling us to run our households as efficiently as we operate our cars. When our homes get connected to the Internet, new questions about security and privacy always pop up, but we are confident that these will be resolved.

Cees Links is the founder and CEO of GreenPeak. Under his responsibility, the first wireless LANs were developed, ultimately becoming household technology integrated into PCs and notebooks. He also pioneered the development of access points, home networking routers, and hotspot basestations. He was involved in the establishment of the IEEE 802.11 standardization committee and the WiFi Alliance. He was also instrumental in establishing the IEEE 802.15 standardization committee to become the basis for the ZigBee sense and control networking. In 2005 Cees started with GreenPeak Technologies. GreenPeak is a fabless semiconductor company and the leader in the ZigBee market with a rich offering of semiconductor products and software technologies for smart home data communications and the Internet of Things. You can contact GreenPeak at http://www.greenpeak.com.

Ultimately we will be able to make our homes and our lives more secure, more comfortable, more energy efficient, and allow us at home longer.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Honeywell’s

TruStability

®

Platform

Offers Millions of Sensor Variations Highly Customizable Platform Approach Meets Customer’s Unique Specifications Interview with Ashis Bhattacharya, Vice President of Global Strategic Marketing & Business Development at Honeywell

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EEWEB FEATURE

F

or decades, Honeywell Sensing & Control has been providing tens of thousands of sensors and switches to a diverse customer base. As technology has advanced over the years, product lifecycles have become ever shrinking, which has put a considerable strain on the design engineer. As a result, many design teams have settled for offthe-shelf components to save time in the crucial product development period, offering an increased timeto-market, at the price of having a fully integrated system. Of course, the less-than-desired optimization of these standalone sensors does not sit well with Honeywell—a company with a proven track record of working with customers

to develop entire system solutions, rather than mere system elements. One of Honeywell’s latest offerings promises to offer customers a valueadded, platform approach with millions of pre-engineered and preintegrated designs that will not only enable a new wave of applications, but help the design engineer bring new products to market in record time. EEWeb spoke with Ashis Bhattacharya, Vice President of Global Strategic Marketing & Business Development at Honeywell, about the TruStability sensor platform, the product configurator that helps the engineers select the right sensor from a sea of millions, and some new highstakes applications on the horizon.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Engaging at the Start As is the case with all components of a system, sensor design requires interdisciplinary collaboration for a variety of stability testing issues. The process of determining operating conditions and functionality in real-world applications is often the lengthiest and costliest part of the design process. While this process is an interdisciplinary process, the onus of this product development cycle lies in the design engineer. “Design engineers constantly face high expectations for performance and after-market support,” Bhattacharya stated. “They are essentially asked to do much more with much less.” In the case of selecting a sensor or a switch for a particular application, Honeywell believes that initial engagement with customers and designers is of utmost importance. “We want to fully understand the customers’ situations,” Bhattacharya explained. “We want to engage with customers to pick sensors that will enable the performance and stability of the device, which will give them a competitive advantage.” The chosen sensors will not only need to be reliable, but they must easily integrate with the given system. Honeywell’s response to this critical design crunch was to put years of engineering work into their TruStability® Platform. This platform boasts over one million variations on the same sensor. As if this was not enough value for the customer, each one of these million variations of sensors comes preengineered, and pre-designed, making each selection truly customizable so the customer can achieve a level of precision and specificity that usually comes through

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custom design work. These pre-engineered variations directly benefit the ways in which Honeywell interacts with its customers; as Bhattacharya explained, “Honeywell can now know how each sensor variation would perform, what it would take to build the variation in our factory, and how long it would take to get to the customer.” Knowledge of these specific parameters will allow design engineers to save time in the crucial early stage of product development and selection.

From One Million to One However, scanning through a sea of a million sensors is no easy task, which is why Honeywell developed a proprietary product configurator. The configurator helps the customer narrow down the sensor selection from a million to one, as efficiently as possible. By simply selecting the precise criteria and environment parameters of the end application, the configurator will narrow the sensor selection down to a very specific device, making sensor selection easier than it has ever been before. Having pre-engineered and pre-designed sensors also eliminates the need for in-depth testing, re-calibration within the system, as well as the costly initial set-up. According to Bhattacharya, the response to the sensor platform approach has been extremely valuable to Honeywell’s customers: “Our platform continues to enable customers to be proactive with sensors, which is valuable because designers have not always realized that the sensor can heavily influence the design of the product.” The continuous digital and online customer engagement allows for customer support at every stage of the selection and implementation process, making Honeywell a one-stop sensor provider.


EEWEB FEATURE “We want to engage with customers to pick sensors that will enable the performance and stability of the device, which will give them a competitive advantage.�

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Honeywell’s platform continues to enable customers to be proactive with sensors, which is valuable because designers have not always realized that the sensor can heavily influence the design of the product.

High Stakes, High Reliability

The TruStability Platform’s low-drift characteristics help maintain high accuracy no matter how long the device has been in use, which is a key factor in always-on ventilation and monitoring.

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With the development of the TruStability Platform, Honeywell can now target the markets that need stability the most. According to Bhattacharya, these markets are medical, aerospace, and industrial. “Our sensors play a critical role in enabling customer’s devices,” he stated. In the case of medical devices, Bhattacharya gave the example of ventilators that need to sense the slightest shifts from inhale to exhale. Honeywell’s sensors enable this critical application where the pressure of inhalation is so light it is barely noticeable. The TruStability Platform’s low-drift characteristics help maintain high accuracy no matter how long the device has been in use, which is a key factor in always-on ventilation and monitoring. “The level of performance and dependence that our customers have on these sensors is tremendous,” Bhattacharya remarked. “This requires a lot of background engineering, marketing, and manufacturing sophistication.”


EEWEB FEATURE

For aerospace, the dependence on pressure sensors heightens the need for reliability and stability. When an aircraft is coming in to land, it is critical to ensure that the wings remain straight no matter how the joystick is affected so that the plane lands safely. Honeywell developed a specific sensor that determines when the weight of the plane is on the wheels of the aircraft—not the wings—so that it can be steered on the ground upon landing. “In concept, it is an extremely simple sensor,” Bhattacharya explained, “but it has to perform under high stakes over long periods of time.” These highstakes applications can now stably operate no matter how rigorous or slight the external parameters are. With the proliferation of sensors, comes an increase in expectations of reliability and stability. As Bhattacharya stated: “Customers are beginning to realize that having the right sensors can make all of the difference in device performance.”

Fighting Drift Pressure sensors are commonly affected by drift, a phenomenon that degrades the accuracy of sensor readings over time. Drift commonly occurs from external parameters like temperature and operating conditions that ware down the stability and accuracy of the sensors. To combat drift, Honeywell developed its TruStability sensor platform, which has robust, pre-engineered components that boast higher stability and dependency compared to off-the-shelf components. The days of drift are over.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Q& A

with Honeywell’s Ashis Bhattacharya Interview with Ashis Bhattacharya Vice President of Global Strategic Marketing & Business Development, Sensing & Control at Honeywell

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INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

HONEYWELL IS A COMPANY WITH A RICH ENGINEERING HISTORY. FOUNDED OVER A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, THE COMPANY HAS EXPANDED FROM DEVELOPING THE EARLY VERSION OF THE THERMOSTAT TO BECOMING INDUSTRY LEADERS IN MILITARY, COMPUTING, AND INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS. But Honeywell’s massive expansion does not mean it has lost sight of its customer-oriented approach. With the Sensing and Control unit, the customer has always inspired the direction of the products. The unit’s latest sensor platform, TruStability, reinforces this credo as it helps enable the customer to essentially develop a unique sensor for the application they are working on. EEWeb spoke with Ashis Bhattacharya of the Sensing and Control unit at Honeywell, about the division’s place among Honeywell’s broad engineering offerings and the customer-oriented initiative with its highly adaptable new sensor platform.

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SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Honeywell is a large and diverse company with a lot of offerings. How does sensing and control factor in to Honeywell’s portfolio?

Q& A The most interesting thing about Honeywell is that it is such a big company. Depending on your experience, your perception of Honeywell could be limited by the products that you have encountered in the past. One of the big parts of our business is what we call performance, materials, and technology (PMT), which deals primarily with the development of chemicals, processes, and management of chemical plants. Another main part of Honeywell’s business is its automation and control solutions, which are made up of eight business units. This differs from our sensing and control solutions, which is a specialty components business—the only thing that we do in that business is manufacture a wide range of sensors and switches that we supply to customers that are designing devices and machines. In our automation and control unit, the first level of business is the components business; the second level is the people who make devices for security systems or personal protective equipment systems; and the third level of business is with service businesses that just give you equipment.

What are some of the target markets for the Sensing and Control unit? One of the things that distinguishes the Sensing and Control unit is that we are solely a sensors and switches business. This is important because sensors are becoming a bigger part of today’s industry; in particular, high-performance and long-duration sensors are on the rise, and because the technology is getting so complex, it’s not always possible for our customers to be designing and selecting these sensors in isolation. We target big vertical markets with these products, such as industrial, transportation, aerospace, and medical. Our focus in these vertical markets reflects what our customers are trying to do. Our customers are very focused on improving safety and productivity on both machine and device performance. Therefore, our strategy and business approach is very simple: we want to focus on the design engineer. We engage with them to make sure they are able to understand our sensor portfolio and pick the right optimized sensor for their applications.

For design engineers, what sets Honeywell apart from the competition? When a design engineer is looking at a sensor or a switch selection, there is

“We found that most customers look for the ability to select a sensor that meets their unique specifications as opposed to selecting a general sensor.”

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INDUSTRY INTERVIEW nobody from the provider in front of them—all they have is their computer. For us, this initial online engagement with our customers is one of our most important goals and we continue to define what we do in terms of how we engage with our customers, whether through our online content or distributors. We tell our customers that we understand their situation and we want to work as a technology partner with them and supply them with differentiated devices from a performance and stability perspective.

What are some of the more notable advances that Honeywell has made that provide value to your customers? One of the things that customers want is quick response time with their questions. Over the last five years, one of the big effects that we have had is thinking about our products as more of a platform. This means that in the early design stages of a product, we send our product-marketing people and engineers to go out and talk to customers to understand their needs in the industry. We found that most customers look for the ability to select a sensor that meets their unique specifications as opposed to selecting a general sensor. They said they needed something that was more customized and they needed it quickly. In return, we developed the TruStability platform, which is comprised of a set of variations around a sensor. Our customers told us that they needed this pressure sensor to be stable over time, which is difficult, because pressure

“Designers don’t always realize that the sensor can heavily influence the design of a product.” sensors typically get affected by their environment and the temperature of the relative humidity, so stability is a big benefit. With the TruStability platform, we came up with more than one and half million variations so people could pick out of this huge amount of variations. Each one of these variations is preengineered, which means the customer can determine how the variations would perform, what it would take to build the variation in our factory, and how long it the whole process would take.

What has the customer feedback been for this platform? In many cases, the customers have realized that having the right sensors can make all of the difference in their device performance. That is where our method continues to enable customers—to think of sensors ahead of when they are needed. Designers don’t always realize that the sensor can heavily influence the design of a product. We see two starting points of devices fairly often; one is for an electronic device where the CPU decides a lot of the architecture of the device. Increasingly, we are seeing that it is actually the sensor that determines the device architecture. We have been seeing very positive responses where customers have been able to enhance the performance of the device by simply selecting the right sensor by working closely with us.

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Sensor Technology: December 2014  

The Platform Approach: Honeywell's TruStability Offers Millions of Sensor Variations

Sensor Technology: December 2014  

The Platform Approach: Honeywell's TruStability Offers Millions of Sensor Variations

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