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Three-Axis Magnetometer Provides Directional Heading Accuracy in LBS for Smart Mobile Devices

Fri, 01/21/2011 - 8:02am
Freescale Semiconductor is expanding its Xtrinsic line of intelligent sensing solutions with the introduction of the MAG3110, the company's first magnetometer. The Xtrinsic MAG3110 is a small-profile, low-power, three-axis digital magnetometer that delivers enhanced digital electronic compass (eCompass) functionality for location-based services (LBS) such as navigation, dead-reckoning and location-tracking in smart mobile devices and other electronics.

When coupled with an accelerometer and GPS, the Xtrinsic MAG3110 helps give end-users precise orientation and location information for a more comprehensive navigational system. The Xtrinsic MAG3110 also acts as a backup system when both cellular and GPS signals are unavailable by sensing the earth's magnetic field to provide directional context.

The Xtrinsic MAG3110 is designed to address rapidly growing consumer demand for devices featuring LBS capabilities. LBS has fueled consumer adoption of a number of popular smart mobile device applications including Foursquare, Facebook Places and Google Goggles.

A forecast by Juniper Research predicts global LBS revenues could soar to $12.7 billion by 2014, up from $3 billion in 2009. As this type of functionality gains popularity, end-users are expected to demand always-on navigational connections and more accurate location identification, which can be enabled through the use and design of magnetometer sensor technology such as the Xtrinsic MAG3110.

A low-noise, high-resolution device, the Xtrinsic MAG3110 magnetometer features minimal averaging requirements for decreased latency and exceptionally reliable readings. The wide dynamic range of the Xtrinsic MAG3110 enables performance even in an environment that has magnetic interference. Freescale designed the Xtrinsic MAG3110 magnetometer to measure the components of the local magnetic field which is the sum of the geomagnetic field and the magnetic field created by components on the circuit board, including distortions, thus providing extremely accurate heading sensing and readings.

The complete Xtrinsic MAG3110 device includes a magnetic field sensing element and an interface integrated circuit that provides signal conditioning, communication and embedded functionality. Magnetic field data is readily passed to the system's computational engine via an I2C interface. Features include an interrupt signal that indicates when a new set of measured magnetic field strength data is available, thus simplifying data synchronization. This functionality improves the power efficiency of smart mobile devices, ultimately improving the battery life.

As a leader in sensor technology, Freescale's introduction of the Xtrinsic MAG3110 magnetometer complements the company's existing MEMS-based sensor offerings, creating a broad platform for producing extremely accurate electronic compass heading information. When combined with the high-precision Xtrinsic MMA845xQ or MMA9550L families of accelerometers, Freescale's solution provides a tilt-compensated eCompass for smart mobile devices. Hard iron and soft iron calibration and compensation algorithms are available to provide an extremely comprehensive and accurate solution for location-based applications.

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