Sensors Expo 2006 draws a crowd, offers new products

By Control Engineering Staff June 20, 2006
Stanley used a variety of receptor and environmental sensors, artificial intelligence, and a dual GPS to help guide it through its 132-mile journey through the Mojave Desert.

Rosemont, IL —More than 3,000 attendees and nearly 200 exhibitors helped drive the 20th annual Sensors Expo and Conference to a successful conclusion. The event, held June 5-7 in a Chicago suburb, focused on sensors and sensor-integrated systems. It was marked by the introduction of a number of new products (for more, see “Products” below and Control Engineering’s Process Instrumentation and Sensors Monthly e-newsletter, coming June 22), three keynote sessions, and a comprehensive technical conference. Next year’s event will take place June 11-13, again at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.

Noteworthy announcements included the partnering of Tendril , a system software developer, and Ember Corp. to promote easy and quick deployment of wireless sensor and control network (WSCN) applications. The companies will integrate Ember’s ZigBee-compliant networking platform with other environments, including IP networks, building automation networks, and PC/PDA-based applications. Tendril’s system software will be included in Ember development kits. The product is said to simplify OEM and system integrator projects, allowing OEMs to integrate wireless networking capabilities into products in less than a week and integrators to add WSCN to deployments in the field in hours instead of days.

In other news, austriamicrosystems released a free software development kit for its magnetic rotary encoder IC family. The kit is said to allow the creation of powerful demonstrators as well as application software tailored to specific test and product configuration requirements in the shortest possible timeframe. It is based on a Dynamic Link Library (DLL) that can be embedded in many software platforms, including Microsoft Visual Studio, Borland C++ Builder, or National Instruments’ LabView. Application examples and help files reportedly make the kit very user friendly. The kit supports the entire austriamicrosystems magnetic encoder IC family. Click here to download it.

The three keynote speakers included Gentry Lee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who spoke on “The infinite possibilities of the 21 st century;” Dr. Robert M. Metcalfe, 3 Com founder credited with inventing Ethernet, who discussed “The future of embedded networking;” and Sebastian Thrun, associate professor of computer science and director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who described “Winning the DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] grand challenge: A robot race through the Mojave desert.” All spoke to near-capacity audiences.

Drawing particular attention was Thrun’s blow-by-blow report of how his team coupled receptor and environmental sensors, artificial intelligence, computer technology, and a dual GPS system with hard work and persistence to create Stanley, the mobile ground vehicle. The robotic car outlasted 194 challengers (including those from other universities, contractors, and car enthusiasts), traversing 132 miles through the California and Nevada deserts to capture the $2 million prize. Thrun likened sending Stanley off at the outset of the race to “sending your child off to college and out into the world. You can’t see them anymore, but you hope they’ll come back—whole.”

Stanley made the journey in the best time 6 hr 53 min 58 sec and was the first of only five robots to finish the route. The Stanford team is already planning its participation in next year’s “Urban Challenge,” which will be held in an “abandoned city” filled with “traffic” and other urban hazards. That event is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2007. Click here to read more about Stanford’s involvement in this program.

—Control Engineering Daily News Desk

Jeanine Katzel& /A>, senior editor