TI's 60 GHz sensors power high resolution industrial IoT deployments

The new sensors can be used for efficient detection of "objects, people, and motion as fine as breathing and typing," according to TI.

The emerging ecosystem of IoT provides reveals how assets are performing At the 2018 AT&T Business Summit, Larry Wash spoke with TechRepublic about how emerging technologies will allow businesses to see what assets are operating either effectively, or insufficiently.

Texas Instruments (TI) has unveiled a new family of smart sensors for use in enterprise and industrial IoT deployments. These new sensors feature a tuning frequency of 60 to 64 GHz, which occupies a space known as "millimeter wave" or Extremely High Frequency (EHF) bands, which can be used for efficient detection of "objects, people, and motion as fine as breathing and typing," according to TI.

These 60 GHz class sensors can be effectively utilized in smart warehouses, perimeter security, industrial and manufacturing applications, as well as combined with on-chip and edge computing resources to develop real-time models and analytics based on the attributes of physical environments. With the degree of accuracy which millimeter wave detection provides, it is theorized that these sensors can be used to programmatically differentiate between objects with similar profiles, such as "distinguishing between a dog and a human, such as in a perimeter security application."

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According to TI, "Traffic and intersection monitoring is another application where the sensor needs to accurately distinguish between two cars driving at parallel speeds, count the number of cars in a parking lot or track pedestrian movements. In each of these scenarios, rich point-cloud data is critical to maintain high measurement accuracy. Point-cloud data comes from four parameters in mmWave sensors: data in the x, y and z-axes and radial velocity data. Gathering meaningful data requires fine range and velocity resolution from the sensor."

The adoption of 60 GHz and other millimeter wave processing technologies is also necessary to satisfy regulatory requirements, as changes in spectrum allocation regulation by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibit the introduction of new products using the 24 GHz band as of September 2018, while existing and deployed solutions using those frequencies must be decommissioned by 2022.

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While use of the 24 GHz band is not prohibited outright by changes in spectrum allocation, the unlicensed usable space will be reduced to 250 MHz of bandwidth in 2022, which makes current object detection sensors that rely on the 24 GHz band effectively unusable. This limitation will reduce the resolution of 24 GHz sensors to 60 centimeters, compared to 3.75 cm for 60 GHz sensors.

Likewise, because of the shorter wavelength, the antenna size needed to utilize this space is similarly reduced. For deployments where physical space is at a premium, or semi-covert deployments where sensors must be as low-profile as possible to as to be easily hidden, utilization of 60 GHz sensors allow for smaller antennas without a degradation in performance. TI also offers as variant with an integrated antenna, to lessen the challenges of designing around RF interference.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • 60 GHz class sensors can be effectively utilized in smart warehouses, perimeter security, and industrial and manufacturing applications.
  • Currently deployed devices using the 24 GHz frequencies will need to be replaced by 2022 due to spectrum reallocation in the US and EU.

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a staff writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.