Coming in January 2013 to a smartphone near you: a MEMS Absolute Pressure Sensor (APS) from Omron. This tiny sensor (3.8mm x 3.8mm x 0.92mm) will accurately detect 50cm altitudinal variations. Translation? It will know exactly which floor of a building you’re currently on.
By using highly precise sensing of air pressure fluctuation, it will be able to tell when you’ve climbed or descended by more than 50cm. It does this using piezoresistance technologies that Omron has used in developing digital blood pressure monitors. According to the company itself, “Omron’s pressure sensor detects variation in atmospheric pressure relative to a vacuum chamber created inside the sensor chip with MEMS bonding technology. Absolute pressure measurements are obtained by detecting the difference in pressure between the vacuum and external atmospheric pressure.”
The APS is among the world’s most accurate and power efficient of its kind. So it showing up in smartphones is basically a given. Of course it could also have a place in tablets, but it’s even conceivable to be in a car navigation system (so it will know which floor of a multistory car park you’re on, or distinguish between elevated roads and those beneath them).
Because it has a built-in temperature sensor, the APS won’t be fooled by air pressure fluctuations that are caused solely by changes in air temperature.
It’s been quite a while since a new sensor made it into our mobile devices, so this is certainly something to look forward to. It could also help all the indoor navigation projects that are currently in development.
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