Low-cost biometric sensor for automotive can monitor drivers’ alertness

Plessey Semiconductors will be launching an automotive version of its EPIC sensor technology for acquiring biometric data such as heart rates, the PS25203, at the Chicago Sensor Expo 2012. The technology has been creating considerable interest with car manufacturers as it can be used to provide low cost, reliable detection systems for several automotive applications. For example, driver monitoring for health and alertness by detecting heart rate and respiration or determining the occupancy of the car to adjust the ride, handling and air bag deployment depending on the size and location of occupants. The EPIC sensor electrodes can be easily and discretely incorporated inside the seat backs to acquire the necessary biometric data.

The automotive version of the technology has a lower gain and higher input impedance making it ideal for certain types of contactless ECG measurement such as driver fatigue monitoring or seat occupancy. The EPIC sensor is a completely new area of sensor technology and works by measuring tiny changes in an electric field in a similar way to a magnetometer detecting changes in a magnetic field even at a distance and through clothing.

“Regulations and economics are meaning that car designs are all becoming very similar so that manufacturers have to differentiate their products by the user features and comfort inside the car,” explained Derek Rye, Plessey Semiconductors’ Marketing Manager. “We are only just starting to explore the new and exciting ways that these innovative sensors can be used to enhance and improve safety.”

EPIC sensors are already in commercial production by Plessey Semiconductors. By adjusting the DSP and amplification circuitry, the sensors can be tuned for detection at a distance as required for these automotive applications. Volume production pricing for the PS25203 is in the region of $1-2. The PS25203 is supplied in a custom 4-pin PCB hybrid package measuring 10.5mm x 10.5mm x 3.45mm.

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