STMicroelectronics expanded its sensor portfolio with an ultra-compact, high-performance e-compass module. The integration of motion and magnetic sensing in a tiny 3x3x1mm package opens new possibilities for advanced navigation and location-based services in ever-sleeker portable consumer devices.
The ST e-compass’ ability to provide accurate heading information - indicate the direction in which a person or vehicle is moving - enables a wide range of applications, including pedestrian dead-reckoning, map/display orientation, and direction finding. Tied to location-based service apps, compassing capabilities can help consumers identify and retrieve information on nearby points of interest, such as historical or geographical points of interest, restaurants or shops, by simply pointing their GPS-equipped mobile devices in the direction of the object concerned.
Reducing the size by 60% over devices currently in production, ST’s new digital compasses have effectively shrunk to the size of single-function, stand-alone motion sensors. At the same time, the new modules boast superior sensing precision with extended magnetic-scale range and minimized measurement noise. The significant size and performance benefits enable OEMs to add new compelling functionality in mobile gadgets while keeping pace in the miniaturization race.
The LSM303D module provides extremely accurate output across full-scale ranges up to ±16g (linear acceleration) and ±12 Gauss (magnetic field).The device embeds a temperature sensor and a programmable FIFO (first-in first-out) memory block for advanced motion recognition and smart power management. Advanced features include two programmable interrupt signals that enable immediate notification of motion detection, click/double-click events, and other conditions.
Digital compasses are becoming a standard feature in tablets and GPS mobile phones, as well as finding their way into gaming, cameras and other consumer devices. According to IHS iSuppli, a leading market research firm, global demand for digital compasses is rising rapidly and is expected to grow from 270 million units in 2010 up to 1.58 billion in 2015.
ST’s LSM303D e-compass module will start mass production in Q3 2012. Unit pricing is $1.8 for volumes in the range of 1,000 pieces. If your company has a high-volume need, please contact your ST sales office.
For further information on ST’s complete MEMS portfolio see www.st.com/mems 
Posted by Janine E. Mooney, Editor
July 05, 2012