Sensors Mag

Special Report

August 1, 2006 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors Sensors

The biennial MEMS conference held in Hilton Head, SC—officially known as The Solid State Sensors, Actuators, and Micro-systems Workshop, but commonly called simply "Hilton Head"—is an inspiring event. It's the most prestigious workshop in the world for micromachined sensor and actuator research and development, attracting current and up-and-coming luminaries: professors and students from leading technology universities, top scientists from national labs, and leaders from sensor vendor firms as well as OEM and end-user companies.

The conference explores all types of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and other tiny technologies—where so many of the exciting sensor advances take place. Not all of the R&D presented at Hilton Head concerns sensors (when I attended several years ago one of the most popular presentations reported on the use of microtechnology to mimic a gecko's ability to grip a wall), but most of it does, and if you want a peek into the future of sensor technology, this is an excellent place to look.

Oh, I know, wireless seems to be the really hot area these days. But I'll argue that MEMS technology has yet to be fully realized—and that MEMS is what makes the vision of wireless sensor networking truly sing. Just think about wireless microsystems for a minute.

So this month we're pleased to present a special report (page 14) from the most recent Hilton Head conference, which took place in June ( Joe Giachino, one of the folks responsible for launching the event back in 1984, wrote the article, focusing on developments currently or soon-to-be available as products. Giachino has a good sense of what's truly useful; for many years he was responsible for pursuing Ford Motor Co.'s use of sensor technology.

Other Market-Makers

Another event important to the MEMS industry takes place this month. COMS, the Commercialization of Micro and Nanosystems Conference (, convenes in St. Petersburg, FL, August 27–31. Whereas Hilton Head is R&D focused, the annual COMS conference addresses recent advances in micro- and nanotechnology commercialization and their impact on commercial markets. I don't suppose there's any way to quantify, but I can safely say that these two conferences have contributed substantially to the development and application of sensors.

In a different realm, but also on this month's calendar, is National Instruments' NI Week conference (, August 8–10 in Austin, TX. This year, the always-impressive event will feature a keynote by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, and announcement of LabVIEW 8.20—so named because it is the twentieth anniversary edition of NI's de facto standard graphical system design platform. National Instruments is keeping a lid on specifics until August 8, but we will announce details on our Web site that week. Check our daily blog and news update at—or sign up to have our insightful Sensors Daily "five-minute read" delivered to your inbox:

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