imec, the leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, and Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) have entered into a strategic research partnership to develop the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With two initiatives already underway, imec and ADI aim to innovate devices that are low-power and have largely improved — or completely new — sensing capabilities. This new collaboration is the latest example of imec and ADI’s long history of jointly developing high-performance, low power and cost effective circuits and systems.

The IoT market continues to grow and mature and, by 2020, it is expected to consist of billions of connected "smart" objects that rely on unobtrusive sensors to constantly monitor the environment, provide status reports and receive instructions. By intelligently processing the data gathered, these devices then drive some type of short- or long-term action. Today, however, the underlying sensors and the ICs they are built with are often too big, too expensive and not accurate enough to be practical.

One joint imec/ADI research initiative already started in the strategic collaboration focuses on localization technology.

imec liquid sensor

Prototype low-power integrated liquid sensor.

Kathleen Philips, imec program director, said, “Building on imec’s world-leading position in innovative, ultra-low power implementations, ADI and imec will pursue the development of a low power sensor for highly accurate indoor localization, in the context of smart building or smart industry solutions. Concretely, we want this sensor to localize objects with a superior accuracy in a robust manner and achieve up to five times better accuracy than today’s best-performing solutions.”

A second initiative includes the creation and, ultimately, the commercialization of a highly-integrated liquid sensor that can be used in a variety of applications, such as the analysis of water, blood or urine.

Philips added, “Our single chip sensor comprises multiple electrodes and excels in terms of cost and size, while demonstrating industry leading sensitivity and accuracy.”

imec localization sensor

Prototype low-power highly-accurate indoor localization sensor.

Peter Real, senior VP and chief technical offer of ADI, said, “imec is widely recognized for its long-standing and global leadership, when it comes to the development of ultra-low power circuits and devices, as well as innovative and smart algorithms. We have chosen to take our collaboration with imec to the next level, because its expertise in each of those domains — and its position at the crossroads of both the scientific and industrial communities — is fundamental to helping us successfully develop the next generation of IoT sensors.”

Rudi Cartuyvels, executive VP imec, said, "In ADI we have found a partner that brings to market professional-grade, high-value-add sensor systems. Thanks to ADI’s commercial insights, in combination with its innovative mindset, we can build differentiating technology that meets IoT market requirements today and tomorrow.”