MWC: Smartphones get sensorless proximity sensing

Smartphones can have proximity sensing without requiring a hardware optical sensor, according to a Norway-based software company.

Laila Danielsen - Smartphones get sensorless proximity sensing

Laila Danielsen, CEO of Elliptic Labs

According to Elliptic Labs at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, it is possible to give smartphones a proximity sensing function by installing software and using existing components on the phone.

Mobile World Congress: Your Electronics Weekly guide »

It is based on ultrasound and makes use of the existing earpiece and microphone previously used only for audio.

Ultrasound signals are sent from the smartphone’s speakers and the reflections from the user’s hand or head are detected by the phone’s microphone.

The proximity function is provided by software developed by Elliptic Labs. The software can define the interaction space.

The company says the active interaction area is 180º around the device, and up to several metres – distance measurements can be made using ultrasound.

Optical proximity sensing is typically used to detect when users are in call mode so that the touchscreen can be deactivated. It traditionally requires a rectangular shape or two large holes on the screen.

Laila Danielsen, CEO of Elliptic Labs, says: “Our ultrasonic software-only solution replaces and outperforms optical hardware sensors, beautifying mobile design, reducing cost and freeing up physical space inside mobile devices.”

The company is currently working with handset OEMS and Danielson expects the technology, dubbed Beauty, to be seen in phones this year.

Elliptic Labs is a privately held company with offices in Oslo, San Francisco and Shanghai, China. It started in 2006 as a spin-off from the signal processing faculity at the University of Oslo.

Elliptic Labs is at MWC 2016 (22-25 February) in the Innovation Norway Pavilion Hall 6, 6H20.


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