Sensing…a Change in the Air

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



“However long the night, the dawn will break.” - African Proverb

To borrow a market term, it’s hard to know if we’ve leveled out from 2020’s lunacy or if we’re in the eye of a slightly different storm.

Lineage B.1.617.2 (aka, the COVID-19 “Delta Variant”) has enabled a worldwide coronavirus resurgence – first discovered in India in late 2020, this new strain led to 4,500 sequences of the variant in 78 countries by June 22, 2021, and by July, it had spread to 124 countries. By the time this publishes, I expect those numbers to be much higher.

State and local governments haven’t mandated a second national quarantine (yet), but I am noticing a subtle change in mask requirements – from just the unvaccinated to a strong “suggestion” that everyone mask up. 

And while the auto industry is still recovering from the biggest slump since the Great Recession, the economy, as a whole, has found its footing. At most offices, notwithstanding permanent venue changes (some workers stayed remote), it’s business-as-usual.

As I mentioned in previous columns, our industry was deemed “essential” from the very beginning, which greatly assuaged the long-term fallout from COVID-19. And we might even meet face-to-face in the near future – the Consumer Electronics Show, which draws upwards of 180,000 people, is ditching its two-year remote detour for its traditional Las Vegas venue (in early 2022), and events as broad and varied as PCB West, SPI Solar Power International, the Air, Space & Cyber Conference, and the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo and Battery Show are all scheduled to go live this year (possibly by the time you read this).

So at least in our corner of the market, things are looking up.

Meanwhile, our September issue deals with “Test & Measurement + Sensors,” and our North American contributors mostly leaned into the second part of the topic.

The first piece I’d like to highlight, from Posifa Technologies, discusses “How Digital MEMS Sensor Technology Revolutionizes What Can Go Where,” especially how it allows for much more flexible end products.

While the old-school thermistor-based Pirani vacuum sensor is analog, “The digital alternative to thermistor-based vacuum sensors is based on a MEMS Pirani chip-level sensor that combines a micro-heater, a thermopile and a measurement cavity” into a small area of silicon, notes the author, Peng Tu.

That, in turn, allows for micro-Pirani sensors with better accuracy, repeatability, range, and power efficiency than the norm.

Claire Liu, from ACEINNA, also covers sensors, but from an automotive perspective. She describes how autonomous vehicles like self- driving cars, trucks, taxis, robots, delivery vehicles, etc., require a variety of sensing technologies working in concert.

As Claire explains, sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles include perception sensors like Lidar, cameras, radar, and Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs), car to car communications, up-to-date maps delivered to the cars, as well as GNSS/GPS based navigation systems, and it all has to function seamlessly. I don’t have to remind you of the consequences for any number of system failures.

Best Regards, 

Jason Lomberg

North American Editor, PSD