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Other important high-value applications for sensor fusion

Recently, much creative thought has been focused on developing context awareness in mobile phones. If your phone could figure out what you are doing, or perhaps even what you intend to do, then it could better serve you and consume less power, according to Alissa M. Fitzgerald, managing member of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) consulting firm A.M. Fitzgerald & Associates.


With sensor data and some logic (also known as sensor fusion), a phone could detect the context of your situation and automatically make adjustments without manual prompting, she said in a recent newsletter. For example, if it senses you are in a meeting, it could silence or soften your ring tones. If it knows you are outdoors walking the dog, it could boost noise cancellation when you take an incoming call. If it has learned that you enjoy an afternoon latte, then at 3 p.m., the phone would offer a list of nearby cafes and let you know which ones are offering specials.

Why should context awareness be limited only to mobile phones? Many of our less intelligent appliances could benefit from context awareness, too. Already, clothes dryers use humidity sensors to determine how long to dry a load, so you don't have to guess how to set the dryer timer. Breville is now offering a Smart Oven with sensor technology that can dynamically adjust heating power and detect when food is cooked. 

toaster oven

Breville is now offering a Smart Oven with sensor technology that can dynamically adjust heating power and detect when food is cooked. 

Finally, an oven that won't burn food! While you still have to manually prompt the Smart Oven that you are cooking a bagel, and not a pizza, it's easy to imagine that if a sensor fusion upgrade were applied, the oven could identify the food type without your input. And wouldn't it be even better, if someday it could learn your cooking preferences, so that it automatically toasts your bagel lightly but makes your spouse's dark and crispy.

Fitzgerald recently gave a presentation in sensor fusion at the 2013 Sensors Expo. Click here to read her presentation: Thinking outside the (mobile) box: Other high-value applications for sensor fusion.


Posted June 28, 2013.