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Panasonic evaluation kit aims to speed up IoT prototyping

Steve Rogerson
September 8, 2015
 
An infra-red array sensor evaluation kit from Panasonic is set to launch this autumn to enable fast prototyping of IoT applications. Called Grid-Eye, it integrates a nanopower Bluetooth Smart module, software and microcontroller to enable easy development of wireless sensor applications.
 
The Japanese company has combined its PAN1740 Bluetooth Smart module and a microcontroller on one PCB. By combining its infra-red sensor technology with Bluetooth technology and software for infra-red detection of people and objects on one board, it says it enables users to develop rapid prototypes and quickly build their own wireless sensor IoT applications.
 
“With the launch of the Grid-Eye evaluation kit, we make our state-of-the-art Grid-Eye sensor along with an innovative IR people detection software – including basic API and image processing – available for the first time to the end customer,” said Alexander Hoch, team leader for circuit components at Panasonic. “We have developed a PC software and a smartphone app to be provided to the customers to test our sensor in different ways with various applications. This paves the way for designers to use the advantages of Grid-Eye in combination with Bluetooth technology and we are expecting to see some very innovative wireless IoT applications being developed by our customer base, thanks to the speed and simplicity offered by our new evaluation kit.”
 
Grid-Eye is an infra-red array sensor and said to be the first ever 64-pixel IR camera in an all-in-one compact surface-mount package. Based on Panasonic’s MEMS (micro electro mechanical systems) technology, it combines the MEMS sensor chip, a digital ASIC (I2C interface) and a silicon lens. It has 64 thermopile elements in an eight-by-eight grid format that detect absolute surface temperature without any contact.
 
Unlike conventional sensors, it uses a patented 60Ëš silicon lens etched out of a silicon wafer, which is less than 0.3mm high. The combination of these technologies reduces the sensor package size to 11.6 by 8 by 4.3mm, which is said to be around 70 per cent smaller in size than competitor products.
 
Compared with pyroelectric sensors, it is not only possible to detect moving people and objects but also the position and presence of motionless people and objects, the direction of movements and the accurate surface temperature from -20 to +100ËšC. With this wide range of temperature measurement Panasonic is able to reach a NETD (noise equivalent temperature difference) of ±0.5ËšC at room temperature.
 
With these features, the sensor opens the door to various applications, ranging from energy savings in the lighting industry, domestic appliances (for example air conditioners and microwave ovens), safety and security systems (such as lifts, automatic doors, elevators and kiosks), and the medical industry for patient fall detection and patient positioning. Further examples include hot-spot detection, human detection inside vehicles for consumer comfort and contactless temperature measurement in industrial applications.
 
The sensor also able to detect people and effectively differentiate them from other heat sources such as displays or heaters. Moreover, as it is an infra-red sensor, detection of people is measured almost independent of ambient light conditions. Another advantage is that its use does not intrude on personal privacy, unlike cameras.
 
The integrated Bluetooth module in the evaluation kit is a single-mode Bluetooth Smart system-on-chip optimised for low power – 4.9mA in transmit or receive – and small size, 9.0 by 9.5 by 1.8mm. The surface-mount component has a fully shielded case, chip antenna and integrated crystal oscillators. The 4.9mA power consumption allows the use of coin cell batteries and is claimed to decrease battery requirements by up to 50 per cent when compared with other Bluetooth LE devices on the market.