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(Ultra)Sound Interfaces and Low Energy iNtegrated SEnsors

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SILENSE ((Ultra)Sound Interfaces and Low Energy iNtegrated SEnsors)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-04-30

SILENSE researches acoustic technologies and develops concepts to activate and control devices by gesture, data communication, and indoor positioning, exclusively based on these innovative technologies. These concepts can be used in different domains: wearables, automotive and smart home application. Using ultra sounds as a key element to control and direct for these applications it will enable to bring communication to the next level: communication between humans and objects. This will become increasingly important in an IoT dominated world.

People communicate mainly with speech and body gestures. The technologies SILENSE is to develop, take the way we naturally communicate one step further: from communication between people to communication between humans and objects, an ever growing part in our lives. The application of the developed technologies in numerous areas will bring lots of benefits to the general public, ranging from enhanced user experience to improved health and safety. A few specific examples:
• Intuitive user interface in mobile and wearable devices: user interfaces are nowadays one of the major differentiators in the mobile market. Audio sensing allows the activation and control of mobile devices without touching them. Additionally, the user will no longer suffer from a dirty (touch) screen which leads to an improved user experience and better hygiene.
• Improved hygiene by touchless control: implementation of technologies enabling touchless control of objects can lead to improved hygiene conditions in buildings, hospitals and home.
• Enhanced safety by touchless control: sound/voice activation/control of systems in the car (e.g. navigation, entertainment and climate control) and control of machinery in industrial applications.
• Enhanced security by gestural authentication: in the context of needs for stronger authentication process, gestural identification appears as a new factor, increasing the diversity, hence, the robustness of authentication scenarios.
• Enhances quality of life for disabled persons or elderly unable to move could also take advantage of both audio and gesture recognition, and the ones suffering from hearing/talking impairment could benefit from sign language interpretation.

SILENSE will develop and improve smart acoustic technology blocks on different levels – hardware, software and system – to achieve these many applications.
• SILENSE lowers the cost and energy consumption and improves the performance (directivity, fractional bandwidth, dynamic range, frequency range, sensitivity and efficiency…) of micro-acoustic transducers.
• SILENSE develops package and assembly technology. More specifically heterogeneously and monolithically integrated arrays of micro-acoustic transducers with their supporting electronics. The project also provides dedicated low-power IC design.
• SILENSE develops smart algorithms for acoustic data communication and sensing.
• SILENSE combines voice/speech, digital sound modulation and gesture control by means of the same transducer(s).
The SILENSE partners spent their first year consolidating their research for an effective application of ultra sound as key driver for future gesture recognition in the automotive sector, for smart homes and hospitals as well as for wearable, especially to be used in water. This included the application analysis and subsequent definition of use cases, aligning those with the demonstrator concept design. These provide the frame for the technological development such as electronics benchmarking, testing performance and reliability. As a basis for this work the regulatory situation for the widespread use of ultra- & infrasound will be investigated and possible side-effects on health or e.g. animals/pets will be assessed. In addition, existing standards will be reviewed and interference effects of ultrasound devices will be investigated. This information will be used to choose the right frequency areas and amplitudes. From the use cases and the initial set of demonstrators, a selection of demonstrators was derived, which covers a range of applications in the mobile and wearable, smart home and automotive sectors. The selected demonstrators will show the advantages of acoustic systems over existing technologies in 3 main technology areas: large area US sensor systems, high resolution motion sensing / gesture recognition and US data communication.For each demonstrator, working teams were established so that all the required competences were fulfilled. The building blocks of each demonstrator were identified and the initial concept design was made, together with a definition of the demonstration environments and the expected validation processes.

The SILENSE partners spent their first year consolidating their research for an effective application of ultra sound as key driver for future gesture recognition in the automotive sector, for smart homes and hospitals as well as for wearable, especially to be used in water. This included the application analysis and subsequent definition of use cases, aligning those with the demonstrator concept design. These provide the frame for the technological development such as electronics benchmarking, testing performance and reliability.

The electronics-related activities during the first year has focused on two objectives. The first one is a review of the state-of-the-art of the commercially available solutions as well as approaches which are studied in the scientific literature of electronic circuits for ultrasound transducers. The results of this study are reported in the subsequent deliverable. The second and main objective for the first 12 months is the identification and definition of the key requirements for the electronics. To define them interactions among the partners is constantly growing; sharing information on use cases, transducers, package and demonstrators.
Medium impact is expected in Smart and Connected Things areas through the development of novel hardware and software components by a European ecosystem which can be applied for improved access control. The developed sound technologies will enable secure Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) by means of biometric authentication and gesture control. The rising number of interconnected devices that need to be controlled, asks for novel technological breakthroughs. The complementary SILENSE partners form a unique ecosystem with an excellent innovation capacity which will bring added value to the innovations in the field of acoustic sensing and communication applicable in different application areas.

The technologies SILENSE is developing takes our natural communication further: from inter-humans, to a communication between humans and objects. The application of the developed technologies in numerous areas will bring many of benefits to the general public, ranging from enhanced user experience to improved health and safety. Enhanced safety by touchless control is a further highly relevant aspect as is security by gestural authentication as it increases robustness of authentication scenarios. SILENSE research and results will allow enhancing the quality of life for disabled persons.