Overall, most engineers don’t think of bugs as good things. But, just like in the natural world, some insects are beneficial. For example, the ladybug eats aphids which can harm plants. Could an IoT hardware bug be as useful?

The TDK SmartBug Sensor and Algorithm Module answers this question in the affirmative if you need a small, sensor-rich, fully self-contained device for your many and varied IoT applications.

The SmartBug is a multi-sensor wireless module that uses MEMS sensors and algorithms to support a wide range of IoT applications. The sensors include a 6-axis motion accelerometer and a gyroscope; a barometric pressure sensor for automorphic readings; a MEMS-based ultrasonic time-of-flight sensor for distance measurements; a MEMS magnetometer to determine heading and magnetic anomalies; and a humidity sensor to monitor relative humidity.

In addition to these sensors, the package contains a wireless microcontroller (BLE), several algorithm-based features and a rechargeable battery in a small package. Hardware and software options exist for an add-on Wi-Fi module and an SD card slot to help transmit the onset of collected data.

The SmartBug IoT platform is a Windows 10 application. Raw sensor data is transmitted and recorded using configurable FSR and ODR. Firmware updates are performed using Over the Air (OTA) technology.

Such sensor sets have become more common in the commodity IoT sensor space. For example, real ladybugs – from which the SmartBug IOT device seems to take shape – might actually walk on a leaf-shaped circuit board from a project called Botanicalls. This activity was started to allow houseplants to interact with humans by phone or Twitter. Botanicalls was a network sensing communication system that allowed plants to make phone calls and send tweets for human help. For example, a thirsty plant might send a message to someone asking to be watered. On the other hand, a person might phone the factory to find out about their latest needs and garden gossip.

Botanicalls V3 Kit, Sparkfun Electronics

Of course, IoT development kits and all-in-one sensor packages come in all shapes and sizes and are offered by devices to Edge and Cloud providers. These devices have become a commodity and are pretty much bug free – unless a smart bug is exactly what you need.

John Blyler is the editor of Design News, covering the areas of electronics and advanced manufacturing. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of experience in hardware-software-network systems as a publisher and engineer in advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductors. John has co-authored books on systems engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.


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