In this interview, AZoSensors interviewed Vesper Technologies Inc about their booth at Sensors Expo & Conference 2018.
Tell us a little bit about Vesper Technologies, Inc. and why you attended the Sensors Expo & Conference this year.
Vesper is a company that has invented a new technology called piezoelectric MEMS. We are the first company in the world that has made microphones using piezoelectric material.
We were at the show to demonstrate how this material allows us to have some unique features and functions.
Was there a particular product that you were showcasing?
Our showcase product was the zero-power listening microphone. This is a microphone that doesn't consume any power until sound occurs, at which point it is turned on.
This has been a hit because it can extend the microphone's battery life from 5 to 20 times when compared to systems which always have a listening voice.
Image credit: Vesper
How does piezoelectricity work?
Piezoelectricity is a phenomenon where if a material is stressed it produces electricity. We have built piezoelectric MEMS cantilevers inside of our product. When the sound from a voice stresses these plates, the mechanical energy bends them; this is then converted into electrical energy.
This electricity kick starts a very low-power circuit which then turns the whole system on. So really what we've done is taken a microphone and turned it into an on-switch.
What are the applications of your piezoelectric MEMS?
Image credit: Vesper
Vesper’s piezoelectric MEMS sensors are used in a myriad of applications – and the list is rapidly growing. Some applications include connected devices such as smart speakers, smart home and IoT products.
Vesper mics also enable products such as TV remotes that respond to voice commands from afar, security cameras that never need a battery change, car engines that predict engine failure and even touch-free garbage cans that respond to our voice.
How are piezoelectric microphones developing the personal audio market?
Piezoelectric MEMS microphones are drastically improving the quality and durability of personal audio products. Vesper’s sensors are being built into earbuds, hearables, headphones and even hearing aids from big-name consumer tech brands, with some expected to be released in 2019.
As is the case for all devices with Vesper’s mics, soon to be released personal audio products will respond to voice commands with incredible accuracy, maintain durability and allow battery power to last for months, not days.
What do you think makes your products unique?
In addition to our piezoelectric technology, the microphones are completely waterproof and dustproof. We demonstrated how waterproof the microphone is by taking it on a whale watching trip and submerging the microphone – it’s a lot louder underwater than you would think!
We also have microphones with a wide dynamic range, which can listen to incredibly loud sounds (up to 167 decibels) - as loud as standing next to a jet engine.
We are seeing demand in things like next-generation soundbars, extremely high-performance smart speakers, but even things as simple as headsets that can reject wind noise. In the very long term, our vision is to do multi-sensors - to put multiple sensors on the same chip. In the MEMS world, there has been some successful products that combine a single sensor into multiple sensors, but no one has been able to do that with microphones. That is our long-term vision for the company.
Next to audio you have ultrasonic, and with ultrasonic, you can also perform proximity detection. You can also carry out communications, of which a lot is happening. We can combine all these sensors with our zero-power feature too. We are trying to build our company to try to take advantage of as much of it as possible.
What are the challenges being faced within MEMS development?
A challenge with MEMS development – but also an opportunity – is that product cannot be made fast enough. The demand for MEMS microphones will reach over 5.6 billion units in 2018, according to an Acoustic MEMS and Audio Solutions report from Yole Développement.
As a result, manufacturing must be scaled to meet demand. Recognizing the need early on, Vesper partners with tier one manufacturing partners GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Unisem and TSMC that can scale to any volume.
What were you hoping to get out of the Sensor Expo & Conference 2018?
This year it was great for networking and seeing what people are up to.
We think as the IoT market takes off, sensors are going to get bigger and bigger.
We also expect to see the conference to get bigger over time, with lots of customers. It is a good place for us to meet many people and tell them about our technology and what we can offer.
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