Ullal was tight lipped about exactly how Xsens is going to fit into their application centric strategy, but he did give a few hints, saying acquiring Xsens was a long-term strategic move.
The miracle of Moore's Law is that the smaller you make it, the faster and lower power it is, but not so with MEMS. With MEMS shrinking everything makes it worse. What we want to do instead is leverage sensor-fusion with MEMS, which is what Xsens does best. With MEMS sensors, we will know what our devices are doing in order to put together much smarter systems that can bring down the power of the whole system by a factor of 10.
Ulall then rattled off a whole list of projects that could leverage MEMS sensors to achieve Fairchild's strategic goal of better energy efficiency. Air conditioners, for instance, are always blasting away at maximum speed no matter what, but by using sensor fusion Fairchild plans to make air conditions only use energy when they need it. By using MEMS sensor fusion to determine how many people are in the room, the air conditioner can run at an optimal speed for that number of people. NEST's thermostat works on this principle.
Ullal told EE Times:
We don't have anything to do with NEST, but what I am trying to tell you is that motion tracking in terms of motors can accomplish the same thing that NEST does with heating and air conditioning. And in fact 50 percent of the energy used in the world is used by motors. So if we can make a motors more intelligence, that is going to make a much bigger impact on energy consumption. Today brush motors are about 35 percent efficient but by going to induction your are about 70 percent efficient -- and by making induction motors smarter they could be 75-to-80 percent efficient.
He also gave the example of robotic controlled lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners. By using sensors an automatic lawn mower could be super precise -- never mowing a spot twice. And the same thing is true of robotic vacuum cleans which today use 300% of the amount of energy it could by going over the same places over and over. An smarter vacuum cleaner would also not vacuum on a schedule, but survey the floor and only clean it when it is dirty.
"Over the last three years we have had a massive transformation in the culture of the company, we have become a lot more forward thinking, a lot more progressive, a lot more open. We've become a lot more willing to take risks and I can't wait to see what will happen in the next few years."
R. Colin Johnson is Advanced Technology Editor at EE Times
Fairchild confirms fabless MEMS entry
Energy, Mobility, and the Cloud provide key opportunities