Lick n' Stick Smart Level Sensors...$2 each. My, oh, my!

Dave Kaufman, of Honeywell Process Solutions, has been predicting for several years now, the rise of what he calls "Lick and Stick" sensors. He notes, as I have, repeatedly, that the use of clusters of low cost, reasonable accuracy sensors often better results than the use of a single high accuracy sensor. When I asked him how far away the Lick n' Stick sensors were, he said late last year that he thought it might be 3 to 5 years out. Well, no. Dave, you're wrong. So am I. They are here now. Check out this press release. Here's a sensor that has an onboard microprocessor, uses a digital data bus, and sells for $2. NO, that is NOT a misprint or a typogoof. The price is $2.00 each in quantity. Look at the applications it can be used for, including fuel level (that's a Class I, Div. 1 application, folks). New Smart Sensor from Micronas Simplifies LIN bus-based Automotive Applications Freiburg, Germany – February 20, 2008 – Micronas (SWX Swiss Exchange: MASN), a leading supplier of innovative application-specific IC system solutions for automotive and consumer electronics, today announced the first member of the HAL 28xy sensor family, the HAL 2810. It is the first linear Hall-effect sensor to include a programmable microcontroller and a LIN bus 2.0 interface. The device is a smart sensor, integrating the sensing element, all necessary compensation functions, digital signal processing as well as full LIN bus connectivity. This reduces system cost and increases reliability, a key feature in networking automotive systems. Micronas’ new family of sensors is ideal to replace potentiometers in automotive applications. The sensors can be used for angular measurements such as in fuel-level sensing and for linear movement such as in seat-track position. In particular, the HAL 2810 is well-suited for passenger weight detection. US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 requires passenger airbags that can sense the size and weight of front seat passengers and adjust accordingly. The HAL 2810 measures the force on the seat attachment points and determines passenger weight based on these measurements. “The HAL 2810 makes it possible to build up a complete LIN network with multiple sensors, offering a cost advantage compared to today’s systems,” says Peter Zimmermann, Market Manager Automotive at Micronas. “Customers can save costs in the wiring harness as well as in the electronic architecture. In some applications a complete data acquisition and communication ECU can be eliminated.” The HAL 2810 is the first complete single-chip sensor solution integrating a LIN bus physical layer. The sensor itself is extremely accurate. It offers 12-bit resolution and features both spinning-current and second-order temperature compensation over a range of -40 to 140 °C. Included on-chip with the sensor is an 8-bit microcontroller with boot ROM, EEPROM, RAM, and the LIN bus slave interface. The LIN bus interface is fully compatible with LIN Specification Package 2.0, and supports data rates of 10.4 kbps and 20 kbps. The boot ROM includes firmware to drive the LIN bus. Micronas included the physical interface and overvoltage and reverse-voltage protection on all three pins, so the device can be connected directly to the bus. The device is user-programmable via the LIN bus, so any LIN tool available on the market can be used to program the sensor. Along with the HAL 28xy, Micronas offers an easy-to-use application kit containing a programming board, LabVIEW(TM) programming software and the necessary source code. Key application variables such as magnetic field range, sensitivity, offset, and the temperature coefficients of sensitivity and offset can be adjusted by programming the non-volatile memory. The sample rate can be programmed from 27 to 54 samples per second. Besides the 32-bit LIN serial number, the HAL 2810 includes a user-programmable 12-bit sensor ID register. HAL 2810 samples are available in a TO-92UT package rated for operation from -40 to +140 °C. Pricing for 10 K units is $2.00.