Fairchild IMU

One of the most important questions that just about any wearable Health Tech device can ask itself is “Where am I?” This simple question is key to so many important pieces of information: whether the wearer at motion or rest, how much distance has been traveled, and how fast, and more. This in turn makes it possible to calculate calories burned, or correlate activity with other biometrics such as heart rate and heart rate variability. All this is derived simply by knowing where the device is. And this data is usually provided by an inertial measurement unit (IMU) that measures linear and rotational movement.

Fairchild Semiconductor recently announced a new IMU chip that provides highly accurate motion data with very low power requirements. Based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), the new FIS1100 incorporates a six-axis motion sensor along with sophisticated 9-axis sensor fusion algorithms that allows it to incorporate data from an off-chip magnetometer. The key feature is that it processes data from its internal sensors at a high rate, but can communicate with the wearable device’s controller at a lower rate. This means that the controller gets the data when needed, without having to issue interrupts to the IMU chip. According to Fairchild, the result is a level accuracy that would require 10 times the power consumption using a typical design.

All of this is bundled in a tiny 3.3 by 3.3 mm chip that is just 1 mm thick. This low-power, high-accuracy component will make it possible to create better wearable Health Tech devices that run longer before recharging, as well as other products such as robots, navigation systems, and augmented reality devices.