Sensors Central

Sun Microsystems has unveiled a special version of its Java programming language, called SPOT (Small Programmable Object Technology), geared specifically for wireless sensor applications. A development kit with two wireless sensors, a base station, and JavaBeans development software is scheduled for release this month for $499. Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy showcased the technology in a keynote address at Sun's Worldwide Education and Research Conference. During the address McNealy introduced Dr. Barbara (Bobbi) Kurshan, new executive director of the non-profit Global Education and Learning Community, created to offer free, open standards-based curriculum to increase the reach of educational tools.

 Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy
Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy

Second, the newest version of OpenBSD—a freely available Unix-like computer operating system—promises to assist systems monitoring through a new sensor interface framework. OpenBSD 3.9, scheduled for release on May 1, includes support for the sensors and the sensor management tools used on a number of architectures. OpenBSD, known for portability, standardization, and security, addresses the problem of monitoring servers' environmental conditions in a heterogeneous architecture. (http://sun.com/, www.openbsd.org/39.html)

M&A News Features Honeywell, Measurement Specialties, Continental

When Honeywell announced its acquisition of First Technology plc in late March it was already planning to sell First's Safety & Analysis business. The divestiture happened immediately; Honeywell was interested in First Technology's other two divisions, Gas Sensing and Automotive & Special Products—but especially Gas Sensing, which Honeywell is now integrating into its Automation and Control Solutions (ACS) business. "This acquisition strengthens Honeywell's presence in the fast-growing gas detection segment, which we entered last year when we acquired Zellweger Analytics," said CEO Dave Cote.

MSI Hot for Temperature

Just a few days later, Measurement Specialties Inc. (MSI) acquired BetaTHERM of Galway, Ireland, and YSI Temperature of Ohio to establish a new temperature sensor product line. Both provide precision thermistors and custom probes for aerospace, medical, and industrial applications; BetaTHERM also serves the automotive and consumer goods markets.

Temperature, "the most commonly measured physical characteristic . . . has been a gap in our technology portfolio," said Frank Guidone, MSI's CEO. Observers wonder how MSI will integrate two divergent cultures, but Guidone says there are "strong synergies" and that his company will be "a formidable player."

Motorola Drives Off Automotive

To explain Motorola's decision to sell its automotive electronics business to German company Continental AG, Greg Brown, president of Motorola's Networks & Enterprise business, said, "This transaction positions Motorola for continued success by further sharpening our strategic focus on communications solutions that advance our vision of 'Seamless Mobility.'" Continental is integrating Motorola's controls, sensor, interior electronics, and telematics businesses into its Automotive Systems division. The transaction should close by mid-2006. (http://tinyurl.com/gsp6h, http://tinyurl.com/hov2z, http://tinyurl.com/k8x5r)

Free Advice on Sensors for Defense

We now face a new concept of war where instead of being miles away, the enemy may be in the same building or just a few feet away," says David Shumaker, director of SENSIAC, the new sensing information analysis center serving the U.S. Department of Defense.

The center draws expertise from Georgia Tech (where it is housed) and seven other universities, and serves everyone from university researchers to soldiers in the field. "We provide information on all sensing-based technologies related to defense activities," says deputy director Ann Batchelor. The service is free—unless the problem requires extensive research—and welcomes all types of questions. Contact Shumaker, 404-385-7370, [email protected]; or Batchelor, 404-385-4032, [email protected]

Chevron Sees Sensors as Strategic

A presentation by Chevron at ARC's recent forum on Next Generation Manufacturing pointed out that leveraging technology to deliver superior performance and growth is a key aspect of Chevron's overall corporate strategy. Global shift in supply and demand, increasingly varied feedstocks, and the need for more flexible production to address requirements for new fuels and engines are all major factors Chevron cited that can be addressed with advanced forms of automation such as sensors and safety systems. (http://tinyurl.com/h3yu)



Enabling 3D Vision

High-end machine vision applications are progressing from 2D to 3D imaging with techniques such as laser triangulation and stereovision, say analysts at Frost & Sullivan. The 3D image sensor chips are emerging as cost-effective alternatives to weight sensors, for example, in automotive applications. Frost & Sullivan points out that SICK IVP of Sweden has introduced a laser triangulation-based "first-of-its-kind 3D vision smart camera" that also incorporates tools to estimate height and volume. The firm says the technology "is set to make a significant impact on robotic guidance applications such as bin picking, inspection of connector pins, and inspection of weld seams." (www.sensors.frost.com)

Sensors and Satellites

Sensors are being paired with satellites to enable new capabilities. Here's an example: MachineTalker Inc. says its MachineTalker units are now transmitting sensor data and security alerts that can be monitored on the QTRACS Web site of communications technology giant Qualcomm Inc. Qualcomm reportedly has the largest deployed base of GPS tracking systems on trucks. The ability of MachineTalker units to provide specific information from the cargo compartment of trucks and containers to Qualcomm's satellite system enables organizations to get cargo status and location details at any time through the Internet. MachineTalker devices can be linked with virtually any kind of sensor to transmit such critical information as changes in temperature and pressure, and if (and when) cargo doors have been opened. (http://tinyurl.com/hably)

 MachineTalker-supplied sensor data informs QTRACS display
MachineTalker-supplied sensor data informs QTRACS display

CityTV Questions Value of Road Sensors

CityTV News in Calgary, AB, Canada, reports that motorists don't see the value in road sensors installed by the city's Roads & Maintenance division. In her Today at Sensors weblog entry "The Perils of Poor Design," Sensors' Senior Editor Melanie Martella says this is a case not of worthless technology, but of inadequate planning. (http://tinyurl.com/zyyw8)

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Quick Poll

Sun-Sentinel Reports Backup Sensor Debate

On March 26, South Florida's Sun-Sentinel reported that a local woman, whose two-year- old daughter was killed before her eyes as a neighbor's car backed over her, is on a mission. Legislation in Congress to make backup sensors mandatory has bipartisan support, but the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers opposes it, saying the sensors are reliable only in detecting inanimate objects and cameras are prohibitively expensive.

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