Sport and Health

MEMS-based headphones for the Internet of Voice

Applications for improved quality of life

Voice-based internet services are increasingly accepted by many users as a central component of future data processing. For example, in the car, in the smartphone and in the living room. Likewise, renowned hardware and content providers are directing their business towards such products, which are also used in internet-capable mobile devices worn directly in the ear. Today, numerous voice-based services are available. Examples include simultaneous translators, payment services and marketing solutions. The vision of an Internet-of-Voice permanently worn in the ear is thus taking shape. Hearables, which are predestined for this, are increasingly claiming the inheritance of smartphones and emancipating themselves from the less smart Bluetooth headsets.

In future, hearables will not only contain audio technologies, but also powerful processors for data processing and will be directly connected to the internet via radio interfaces. Similar to the GPU for smartphone displays, the processors (in addition to the wireless interfaces) will dominate the energy requirements of future hearables and thus their runtime. Since the space and thus the capacity of the battery in the ear is very limited, all other components will have to get by with a very small energy budget in order to enable a sufficient runtime. Fraunhofer IPMS has developed a new, power-efficient sound transducer principle for a central core component of the hearables - the in-ear loudspeaker.

Miniaturised spectrometers for food analysis

Applications for improved quality of life

The apple with brown spots, the yoghurt with an expired best-before date. All too often, food ends up being wasted. In Germany alone, every citizen disposes of an average of 85 kilograms of food per year. This is harmful to the environment and climate; resources such as water, energy and agricultural land are wasted in this way.

Fraunhofer IPMS is working on a miniaturised spectrometer that can help improve the way we handle food. The microspectrometer is able to determine the composition, degree of ripeness and also the quality of food. The near-infrared analysis also provides information about acidity and sugar content and tells us whether the apple already has a bruise that will only become visible as a brown spot tomorrow. In this way, the microspectrometer helps to ensure that food is eaten in time and does not end up wasted. 

In the meantime, researchers at Fraunhofer IPMS have succeeded in miniaturising the developed spectrometer so that it could be installed in smartphones. With a volume of only 0.6 cm³, the grating spectrometer is about one fifth the size of an ordinary sugar cube, making it one of the smallest near-infrared spectrometers in the world today. Its compact design, low weight of less than one gram and low power consumption in the mW range make it ideal for integration into mobile analytical devices. In the realised design, it addresses the NIR spectral range from 950 to 1900 nm with a spectral resolution of 10 nm.

The functional principle is based on the absorption of infrared radiation, which is not visible to humans. This penetrates deep into organic materials such as food and provides information about the chemical composition of the object under investigation. From this, statements can be made about important properties such as the ripeness or freshness of fruit and vegetables, the water content of meat or the alcohol content of beer, wine and spirits.

Other fields of application are, for example, the analysis of quality and authenticity of cosmetic products, medicines and textiles. The near-infrared spectrometer is also useful in food production: for example, this technology can be used in agriculture to determine the nutrient requirements of soils. In this way, fertiliser can be optimised according to need, so that the environment can be protected and the use of fertiliser can be efficient. The miniaturised spectrometer systems of Fraunhofer IPMS are also suitable for mobile use in pharmacy, biotechnology, medicine and in the environmental and recycling sectors.