Partnerships: Agreements focus on wireless sensing, CMOS technology


Hayward, CA and Unterpremstaetten, Austria —Two recent agreements are promoting the use of advanced technologies in industrial information handling and wireless networking applications. GE Sensing and Dust Networks have formed a technology partnership intended to build dynamic, flexible wireless sensing systems for a range of monitoring applications, the companies announced last week. The announcement comes as IBM and austiamicrosystems said they are signing a development agreement on an advanced HV CMOS (high-voltage, complementary metal oxide semiconductor) process technology for use in automotive and industrial applications, among others.

GE Sensing says it will use Dust Networks’ embedded WSN products to provide customers with reliable, cost-effective wireless products to monitor and validate critical processes in a range of industries, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, automotive, industrial, commercial, petrochemical, and power generation. “We evaluated many wireless technologies and ultimately chose Dust Networks’ Time Synchronized Mesh Protocol (TSMP)-based products,” said Mark Kingsley, chief marketing officer at GE Sensing. “We believe Dust Networks… can provide the reliability and power consumption critical to our customers’ success. The ability to offer our customers a way to quickly and accurately gather information from multiple points will help them meet the growing regulatory challenges, leading to cost savings.”

Added Joy Weiss, CEO of Dust Networks, “…WSN is ushering in a new information revolution, providing quick, reliable access to information from the physical world that was previously out of economic reach. Our partnership with GE has resulted in a product that delivers cost savings, energy reduction, and increased efficiency benefits toend users.”

GE’s new Kaye RF ValProbe, the first product to be introduced from the partnership, lets operators view data in real time without the need or cost of wiring and collect historical data from remote loggers. The ValProbe system consists of RF wireless loggers, a base station, and software. Data can be collected from many loggers and distributed over a wide area. Dust Networks’ TSMP-based mesh networking technology ensures that no data are lost by permitting loggers to route data to another logger for subsequent forwarding if the direct path to the base station is blocked.

In related reading, find out “ Wireless: Why now for sensors, field instrumentation?

In other partnership news, IBM and austriamicrosystems say they will enhance IBM’s 180-nm radio frequency (RF) CMOS process technology with austriamicrosystems’ proprietary high-voltage module. The HV module is currently in volume production as part of austriamicrosystems’ 350-nm high voltage CMOS process technology. The strict modularity with the base process lets customers designing on the 180 nm CMOS process use their existing design IP to allow a very fast time to market.

Foundry customers for this process will have access to process design kits (“HIT-Kit”) from IBM and austriamicrosystems with limited availability expected by the beginning of 2008. Production is scheduled to begin in 2009 at IBM's 200-mm facility in Essex Junction, VT. The technology will be transferred to austriamicrosystems’ facility later.

“This is a landmark agreement for both IBM and austriamicrosystems,” said Tom Reeves, vice president, semiconductor and technology services, IBM Global Engineering Solutions. “We recognize austriamicrosystems’ experience in high-voltage technology, and our combined efforts will provide IBM and austriamicrosystems with an advanced process offering to benefit our customers. And the timing is right—we are seeing an increasing demand in specialty processes for applications like power management.”

John Heugle, CEO of austriamicrosystems, said, “We are very pleased to team up with IBM… for the next analog technology node. Leveraging our long-term process development know-how in high-voltage CMOS, we complement IBM’s expertise in advanced CMOS process technology to enable a very fast development cycle and a top performing process technology. As a key element of austriamicrosystems’ strategic roadmap, the 180 nm high-voltage CMOS process demonstrates our clear focus on leading-edge analog integrated circuit (IC) solutions.”

The newly developed, high-performance process is said to enable cost-effective designs for a wide range of applications, including intelligent power management ICs for mobile devices, and low-cost integrated controllers for automotive, industrial, and medical applications. In mobile devices, these power management chips are designed specifically to manage and regulate a range of power requirements, resulting in more efficient battery consumption for these products to run longer, with better performance, and at lower cost, said the companies.

—Edited by Jeanine Katzel , senior editor, Control Engineering Weekly News
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