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Sensors

With all senses

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In connected systems, billions of tiny Bosch MEMS sensors are improving people’s lives. In smartphones and IoT-applications, these sensors provide important data; in vehicles, they ensure safety and comfort. A tour through the metropolis of Shanghai with Bosch associate Chen Jie.

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300 kph, then 320 - an aircraft would take-off now. The magnetic levitation train running from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to downtown Shanghai vibrates softly. “I can feel the acceleration,” Chen Jie says. And she can measure it, too. A glance at her smartwatch tells her that our acceleration is 0.85 m/s2. A little later, the train reaches 430 kph – its top speed, which it maintains for 50 seconds.

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From a Chinese perspective, Chen Jie lives and works just a stone’s throw from the metropolis of Shanghai and its 24 million inhabitants. Suzhou, where she heads the Bosch sensor test center, is roughly an hour’s drive away. She and her team of around 80 associates check the functioning of microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS. Sometimes as small as a pinhead, MEMS sensors have a tangible effect on many aspects of our daily lives, whether in connection with smartphones, tablets, wearables, applications for the internet of things, or in vehicles. Around a million of these tiny devices, particularly pressure and inertial sensors that measure acceleration and yaw rate for consumer electronics applications, pass through the testing facilities in Suzhou every day under the strictest clean-room conditions. Clean air is not just something that concerns MEMS in the clean room, however, but also in metropolises like Shanghai. “Our latest sensors can measure air quality,” Chen Jie says. For example, fresh air can be let into a room when required – when a meeting has been going on for a long time, say. Smart windows and blinds can be opened at the touch of a smartphone button

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MEMS (micro electro mechanical system) functions and what they measure

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The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the air quality

Air quality

Gas sensors help monitor air quality by detecting harmful elements in the ambient air. Potential sources include paints, varnishes, cleaning products, furniture, adhesives, and alcohol.

The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the orientation

Orientation

Acceleration and yaw-rate sensors help smartphones do things such as count steps or change screen orientation (portrait or landscape) to suit the user. They also support mobile navigation and the monitoring of vital signs.

The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring environmental factors.

Environment

Environmental sensors measure ambient temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity, making it possible to customize weather widgets with local forecasts. On the basis of this information, users can plan their day and dress accordingly.

The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the altitude

Altitude

Pressure sensors measure changes in height, and display altitude to the nearest meter. When combined with yaw-rate and geomagnetic sensors, these offer just as many benefits for outdoor fitness activities as they do for indoor navigation.

The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the acceleration.

Acceleration

As part of in-vehicle ESP systems and vehicle dynamics control applications such as ACC adaptive cruise control or rollover detection, acceleration and yaw-rate sensors work to ensure safety.

The infographic shows the different areas in which MEMS-sensors can deliver data
Air quality
Orientation
Environment
Altitude
Acceleration
The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the air quality
Air quality
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The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the orientation
Orientation
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The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring environmental factors.
Environment
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The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the altitude
Altitude
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The image shows a MEMS-Sensor measuring the acceleration.
Acceleration
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The image shows a woman with a smartwatch in front of the sykline of shanghai
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The image shows a woman with smartwatch inside a tower overlooking the skyline of shanghai

Before taking the ride up, Chen Jie makes one last check: 26°C, no rain, low humidity – to judge by the latest conditions reported by her smartphone, the views are going to be great. Bathed in dark blue light, the visitor elevator at the Shanghai World Financial Center speeds upward at ten meters per second. Chen Jie has tracked her progress by using her smartwatch to count the floors as they fly by: 50, 92, 96, 97, then 100. Here’s where the Sky Walk is located. The glass-bottomed observation deck offers breathtaking views at a height of 474 meters. No wonder so many selfies are taken up here. “Somewhere over there is my alma mater,” says Chen Jie as she gestures to the north. The 37-year-old studied international investment and seemed destined for a career in one of Pudong’s bank towers, structures that appear small from this height. “But by the time I finished my studies, I decided that I didn’t want to work just with money,” she says. “I wanted a job that fulfilled me.” MEMS technology helps many people improve their quality of life. “And I’m a small part of that.” She smiles, then quickly takes a selfie.

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Production

1.6 bil.

MEMS sensors Bosch produced in 2015

Precision

The sensors can measure shifts in the femtometer range

For everyday life

75%

of Bosch MEMS sensors are used for consumer electronics

Mobility

50

MEMS sensors are used in modern cars

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Shanghai is the home of Global Harbor – the world’s largest urban shopping center occupies six floors and 480,000 square meters. “It’s really easy to get lost in here,” Chen Jie says as we enter the luxurious building. She pulls out her smartphone. The display shows a detailed map of the mall and, thanks to the interplay of many different MEMS sensors, constantly indicates her current location. It’s indoor navigation without using GPS at all. At the end of our tour, Chen Jie heads straight for a store selling chocolates. Is she looking for Table2 sweet at the end of a long day? “Not for me, but for my son, Victor.” He’s always thrilled when she brings him back some candy from a business trip. “Wait.” Chen Jie takes out her smartphone, and just seconds later, Victor appears in a video chat window. When the 10-year-old sees his mother with the bag of chocolates, he beams.

Summary

For smartphones, wearables, or IoT applications, MEMS sensors deliver important informaton. In vehicles, they ensure safety and comfort. Bosch is a pioneer in this field and is the world's leading manufacturer.

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