iSentek is committed to perceiving the world with innovative technology and spreading intelligence everywhere
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With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) era, the importance of sensor components playing the “sensory” role in electronic devices has become increasingly important. Sensors are not only the key to the “intelligence” of various systems, but also an indispensable element for the final products to meet the requirements of various safety and energy saving standards. Based in Taiwan and established in June 2011, iSentek is a MEMS sensor designer who is optimistic about the development prospects of this market and is committed to developing its own technology and providing customers with comprehensive solutions.
Max Lai, Founding Chairman and CEO of iSentek, said that the emerging applications which were popular in the market ten years ago were IoT, Industry 4.0 and smart phones which have been rapidly popularized since their birth in 2007. “From a technical point of view, sensors play a key role in all of these applications. It is only with sensors that these devices which were originally dead objects have the ability to perceive. From an industry perspective, Taiwan already had a comprehensive electronics supply chain at the time, including various PCs, consumer electronics manufacturers and strong upstream semiconductor companies, but lacked local suppliers of sensor components. Most of the sensors were imported from Europe, USA and Japan. This provided a good opportunity for iSentek. We believed that a local technology company capable of independently producing sensors would not only make the entire Taiwanese electronics industry more competitive, but also fill the long-term gap and meet the needs of local customers.
iSentek’s R&D team specializes in various types of magnetic sensing technologies, including Planar Hall, Vertical Hall, AMR, TMR and fluxgate; the current product line includes current sensor, angle sensor, linear sensor, electronic compass/magnetometer and switch sensor, and will continue to expand the product line. Max Lai said that in terms of applications, iSentek’s sensors not only support mainstream products such as cellphones and smart watches, but also have achieved fruitful results in emerging applications such as electric vehicles (EV) and drones in recent years. Among them, EV applications are mainly based on residual current detection (RCD) needed for charging, and drone application is dominated by high precision and low power consumption electronic compasses, for which iSentek has conquered a market share of up to 80%. Max Lai also revealed that with the help of factors such as the global COVID-19 pandemic and the pursuit of clean energy by countries around the world, he is optimistic about the takeoff of applications of medical devices and energy storage systems (ESS). Thus, iSentek also actively invests in the research and development of related products.
Committed to the research and development of its own technology
Although sensors are nearly ubiquitous and indispensable in today’s electronic devices, they still receive far less attention than the main processors, microcontrollers and other components that act as the “brains” of the system. In fact, it takes extensive and deep technical knowledge to produce seemingly discrete sensors, as they are the epitome of knowledge in professional fields such as physics, machinery, materials, electricity. Custom design and tuning should be done in conjunction with the final application in order to achieve the required level of accuracy and fully utilize the overall system performance. While Taiwan’s semiconductor industry chain leads the world in integrity and competitiveness, iSentek’s greatest competitive advantage over foreign suppliers is its proximity to customers and awareness. to their weak points.
“Different applications have different requirements for detection accuracy and measurement range, and it is necessary to select appropriate sensors according to individual circumstances,” said Max Lai. “We do not sell single sensor components to our customers, but provide them with complete solutions. Therefore, from system circuit design, we must have close communication with customers to understand their system specifications – including CPU/MCU architecture and other sources of interference in the system – as well as accuracy, temperature, stability and other sensor parameters; in addition to hardware components, we also provide exclusive algorithm support.
Max Lai pointed out that iSentek has been committed to the research and development of its own technology since its inception and hopes to provide customers with a new generation of sensor solutions. Over the past ten years, iSentek has accumulated many R&D achievements on innovative technologies, including three-dimensional sensor planarization technology, the related papers of which have been published in IEEE and other international conferences or academic journals; iSentek has obtained 67 technical patents (with 19 more still pending). He also pointed out that in addition to technological innovation of sensor architecture, iSentek has also invested many resources in developing exclusive formulas of hardware innovations that can improve sensor performance.
Quintessence of cross-domain knowledge and cross-industry cooperation
Innovation in sensor technology should not only be achieved through the combination of cross-domain knowledge, but cross-industry cooperation is also very important. Taking the example of the RCD of electric vehicle charging equipment, Max Lai pointed out that the leakage current detection function is essential for the personal safety of the end user, and therefore it is necessary to work working closely with the client during the design process to ensure the end result can meet safety requirements. “Currently, most of the charging cell manufacturers are concentrated in Taiwan or mainland China, so our advantage of being close to customers is reflected. Not only are we close to downstream system manufacturers, due to the centralized nature of the semiconductor industry chain in Taiwan, but we are also very close to wafer foundries, packaging and testing factories. ; therefore, any technical communication can be completed quickly, which can greatly improve the efficiency of new product development. Due to its rich experience in alliances with different industries, iSentek is also confident in developing promising energy storage systems and medical equipment applications. Max Lai said the energy storage system is expected to see huge demand as the world’s major economies move towards the application of green renewable energy.
Current sensors are also needed inside the energy storage system; High-accuracy, high-dynamic-response-range current sensors are an important key element in the energy storage system. The development process requires closer cooperation with customers to solve problems that may be encountered in practical applications, and continuous adjustment must be made in order to produce the best results.
The same is true for medical equipment. “We are not medical professionals, but we listen carefully to our customers’ needs and solve their problems from the perspective of our specialized sensor technology.” Max Lai believes that not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but also because of the comprehensive broadband network infrastructure, the experience of seeing a doctor without having to go to a hospital or clinic made telemedicine more acceptable to the public. Therefore, the demand for medical equipment such as pulse oximeter for personal use will inevitably increase. In new applications of energy storage system or medical equipment, iSentek will cooperate with local customers in Taiwan first, and then turn the accumulated experience into competitiveness to enter the international market. Currently, iSentek has bases in the United States, Mainland China and other places from which localized technical support can be provided to customers.
To look forward
As various electronic devices continue to evolve towards intelligence and new applications such as artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) and autonomous vehicles emerge, it is expected that the market demand for sensors increases not only in quantity but also in quality. “Let’s take the example of sensors. Their required parameters for resolution, accuracy and range will be higher and higher,” explained Max Lai. For example, the motor control of an electric vehicle must be very precise so that the vehicles do not get stuck during rapid accelerations/decelerations. Smart vehicles combined with autonomous driving features require an immediate response, and these safety applications will require more sophisticated sensors to support.
Therefore, from a technical point of view, a new generation of TMR (Tunneling Magnetoresistive) and AMR (Anisotropic Magnetoresistive) sensors which can provide higher resolution and wide range are inevitable to replace traditional Hall sensors in many applications. . In addition, the sensor itself must also add more intelligence – but how? Max Lai said making some improvements to the algorithm and matching the microcontroller is one way, and the other is to reinvent the sensor’s own architecture. However, the latter is the “secret skill” of various manufacturers. Thus, iSentek will not divulge its details, but users can expect future detection systems to be smart enough to identify specific signals and events more accurately and respond to them more quickly.
Researching and developing smart sensors that combine AI and even neural networks requires the cooperation of other companies with relevant technical expertise. Therefore, Max Lai believes that more examples of cross-industry alliances and cross-field cooperation will be seen in the sensor industry. Regardless of how the market evolves, iSentek will continue to provide customers with “both software and hardware” comprehensive sensing solutions. In response to growing needs, iSentek is currently expanding its team and looking for engineers interested in joining the exploration of sensor technology in order to advance towards the goal of realizing the vision of “perceiving the world and creating a happy life”. “.