Are MEMS the Word at CES This Year?
CES/MEMS
The latest "smart" technology may help you remember the little things.
By Cindy Davis

I have attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas for many years. There were many people on the EH Publishing editorial staff attending this year and since we have just launched TechDecisions I decided to sit this one out and feverishly read the updates.

Each year the same question is asked by everyone: “What’s the Buzz”? There are almost always one or two overriding themes each year. But keep in mind that CES is where the promise of great technologies to come will be announced as well.

In the early 2000’s, I clearly remember being shown a very thin, black box with a blue light emanating from within. “What is it?” I asked. It was the future of high-definition DVDs. “Let’s see ‘it’,” I said. Well it was only a box with nothing inside except a blue light and a promise. I think we were shown the same box every year until the first HD-DVD and Blu-ray players finally made their way off the production floor in 2006. The rest is history.

CES was all abuzz in the mid-to-late 2000’s with flat-panel displays of every variety and size. The manufacturers enjoyed a nice ride from the government mandated Digital TV Transition on that one.

Then there were 3D TVs and smart TVs and smartphones and now really smart devices. Scary, smart devices.

We all know that a GPS-enabled smartphone can not only help you get to almost wherever you want to go, but can also track your whereabouts. Okay — forget the Big Brother implications for a moment: How amazing would it be if your smartphone, device or tablet could also direct you to an exact room on an exact floor? Enter MEMS, or as it otherwise rolls off the tongue — Micro-ElectroMechanical Systems. 

To put this into quick perspective, it is a MEMS gyro chip that makes the Wii able to detect your motion so that you don’t destroy the house while think you are on horseback in combat while engrossed in “The Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess” game.

In scouring the ether for CES reports, which I could do much faster than walking the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center, I came across a great piece on MEMS at CES by IDG News Service

MEMS have been around for quite some time, but it seems to hold true that it is not until something makes it into the extreme mainstream that most people take notice — as in, “Can you hear me now”?

MEMS are already being used in hundreds of electronic devices and their potential use seems as limitless as what Q in James Bond movies could dream up.  I am thinking MEMS is really the biggest quiet buzz at CES this year.

For the very practical purposes of increasing reception, RF MEMS are now being used in cellphones. The CES grapevine of Tweets, posts and a hands-on (as in the taking apart of said item) by IHS iSuppli reports that the first cellphone to be an RF MEMS recipient is Samsung’s new Focus Flash Windows smartphone. IHS iSuppli reported to see a WiSpry, Inc. RF MEMS inside.

WiSpry, Inc. reported only that they had inked a deal.

I would like to put my order in now for my personal RF MEMS: The ability to not have to remember my hotel room when I have once again forgotten the room number; of course, something for my car keys (a no-brainer); tracking exactly where all of my devices are located when I have misplaced them; taking a queue from the IDG article, it would be great to be able to map which rooms in any museum that I want to visit based on my interests; and I would like to have an RF MEMS on my dog.

There is promise that as MEMS mature they will be able to learn more about the environment in which they are used. There are already applications for bio-MEMS. I would really like it if I could skip my yearly visit to the doctor and have an ongoing, self-monitoring, MEMS that alerted me and my doctor if a visit was needed. I am all for preventative medicine, but think of the facility time wasted.

We might be getting into some major Big Brother territory here, but I think that ship sailed a while ago. I am excited about the potential MEMS technology can bring to my personal and professional life.

The Consumer Electronics Association is doing its part in making MEMS the buzz this year by creating a MEMS TechZone at this year’s CES.



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