By Jack Roth
BRIDG is creating strategic alliances that will help facilitate the Green Economy by “Bridging the Innovation Development Gap” through smart sensors and other breakthrough technologies.
When regional business, educational and government leaders launched the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR) in 2014, the goal was to connect researchers and industry in order to accelerate the development of new, advanced semiconductor designs for microelectronics, nanoelectronics, sensors, fiber optics
and photonics. Now known as BRIDG (Bridging the Innovation Development Gap), the Osceola County-based advanced nanoscale manufacturing consortium has already fostered alliances that will lead to enhanced connectivity and sustainability.
Imec, an innovative research and development company and world leader in nanoelectronics research, recently announced the opening of imec Florida as part of a collaborative agreement with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Osceola County and BRIDG. The Belgium-based company is setting up an R&D design center for the development and production of highly innovative solutions for a broad range of applications including sensors, high-speed electronics and photonics.
Bert Gyselinckx, who heads up imec’s Florida initiative, said the company considered other locations but chose Central Florida because of the consortium. “We’ll create prototype designs whose key differentiating parts will be manufactured in the BRIDG design center,” he says.
“We’re combining our strengths to accelerate the creation of a new high-tech ecosystem in the region.”
Imec, which brings nanotechnology design expertise to BRIDG’s world-class manufacturing infrastructure, will focus on non-visible imaging systems such as mm-wave imaging, THz imaging and IR imaging. Target markets for these technologies include automotive, medical imaging and industrial imaging.
“The impact of developing integrated semiconductor devices and technologies for imaging and sensing applications is substantial, especially when it comes to self-navigation cars, biomedical imaging, and hyper-spectral imaging for landscaping, surveying, and security,” says Umar Piracha, imec system architect. “When bulk devices are miniaturized and integrated onto semiconductor chips, it results in significant reduction in manufacturing costs and easier scaling to large volumes, but also to more sustainable communities due to the numerous functions they perform.”
BRIDG fosters collaboration among industry leaders to develop tools and processes in order to manufacture sensors that connect people and their devices to the “Internet of Things” – the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.
“When the Internet of Things is augmented with sensors, along with intelligent data processing and actuators, it will lead to more efficient control and utilization of physical resources and improved performance of all kinds of devices and technologies that surround us, resulting in smart homes, smart grids, intelligent transportation and smart cities,” explains Piracha. “This is how the environment gets greener.”
Gyselinckx, who believes the partnership between imec and BRIDG provides a great access point to take part in the transformation of the region, cites specific examples to illustrate how smart sensors help create sustainability. “LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems will enable autonomous driving, which opens up the door to cars as a service,” he says. “People don’t need cars; they need transportation. Autonomous driving is expected to reduce traffic jams by making car travel more efficient.”
He also touts THz sensors, which can perform non-destructive tests of oil pipeline walls. Through predictive maintenance, most leaks can be prevented, and less oil or other hazardous substances spilled and wasted. And then there are low-cost IR camera sensors in mobile phones, which can detect heat or cooling leaks. This allows you to examine your own house and decide on which areas to insulate better.
The collaboration between imec and BRIDG is significant because everyone involved shares a passion for innovation and a vision for growth and development consistent with sustainability. “There are hundreds of currently envisioned applications where smart sensors will improve sustainability through the global transformation around a Green Economy,” says Chester Kennedy, CEO of BRIDG. “With the advances in technology occurring over the next few years, thousands more will evolve. From assisting in the conservation of water through real-time feedback and control of irrigation, to conserving energy with smart control of lighting, heating, and air conditioning, to providing early means to detect energy leaks in our homes or offices, to advanced detection of pollutants that might otherwise contaminate our air … smart sensors will be an enabler for virtually every aspect of our more sustainable Green Economy.”
Piracha, whose main focus is developing LIDAR system architecture for autonomous vehicles, sees BRIDG as a collaborative haven for advanced manufacturing. “Alliances allow for continuity and the sharing of ideas,” he says. “We all benefit from the others in the room. BRIDG becomes stronger as more and more entities become part of the consortium. It’s a win-win for everyone, including the residents of Central Florida, who will reap the benefits of economic growth and sustainable development.”
With BRIDG open for business, Central Florida has become a one-stop shop for large and small businesses that desire to move next-generation, technology-based ideas to real and tangible products that will have a positive impact on people and communities across the globe.