MEMS and Sensors

Integrating four sensors into a single processor

06 May 2022
The FlexSense family takes up to four sensors and integrates them into a single chip that’s 80% smaller than current offerings for IoT devices. Source: Synaptics

Synaptics has introduced its first integrated sensor processor that is engineered to replace multiple discrete sensors into one integrated processor small enough to function in internet of things (IoT) devices.

The FlexSense family of sensor processors captures and intelligently handles input from up to four sensors in a form factor about 80% smaller than existing solutions. The processor can integrate a mix of capacitive, inductive, Hall effect and ambient sensing into a single processor with proprietary algorithms.

The chip allows for low-latency and context-aware force, proximity and touch sensing to IoT devices such as true wireless stereo earbuds, gaming controllers, augmented and virtual reality, fitness bands, remote controls and smart thermostats.

The FlexSense architecture contains a central microcontroller that connects two low-power, analog front end (AFE) engines. These engines sense and digitize data from the capacitive and inductive elements on the touch surfaces of an IoT device.

Sensing in the device

Hall effect sensors are implemented via metal plates on a device that detects magnetic fields, while an on-chip temperature sensor measures ambient temperature.

Capacitive sensing is used to detect finer grain touch, proximity and actions such as fingers sliding on a surface. Inductive sensing can distinguish coarse grain touch up to 256 levels of force and actions such as knob rotation.

The goal of integrating multiple sensors on a single chip is to:

  • Reduce the power, size, weight and cost of these devices.
  • Allow for easier sensor calibration and configuration.
  • Enable lower latency for applications such as gaming or touch error mitigation.
  • Lower assembly cost and higher yield due to being a single device instead of multiple discrete components.
  • Execute couple and accurate compensation algorithms for stability and adjust for temperature drift.
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