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References - Technologies for Smart Systems

A survey of 93 contributors with activities in Smart Systems conducted in the framework of the IRISS project revealed a breadth of underlying technologies, the leaders being Microsensors & Microactuators; MEMS, MOEMS & Microfluidics; Design & Simulation; and Micro-Nano-Bio-Systems.

  • Public research bodies tended to report engagement in a broad range of technologies, with a peak in Microsensing and Microactuation.
  • Semiconductor & More-than-Moore technologies were reported as the province of Large companies.
  • More than 20% of all organisations registered activity in “Other” technologies, which perhaps reveals new techniques on the horizon.


Technology Brief description Application example
Design & Simulation Whilst Design & Simulation themselves are strictly activities, rather than technologies, they are bound into the technologies of manufacture, and computer-aided techniques are prevalent.

Design and simulation of microfluidic system

University of Greenwich

Micro- Nano- Bio-Systems (MNBS)

Micro- Nano- Bio- Systems (MNBS) combine highly miniaturised engineering and computer technologies with biochemical processes.

Labcard™ diagnostic system


MEMS, MOEMS, Microfluidics

MEMS (Micro- Electro- Mechanical Systems) extend silicon technology to include sensors and mechanical movement. MOEMS (Micro- Opto- Electro- Mechanical Systems) extend the MEMS idea to include light sources and optical components. Microfluidics extend MEMS to the control and analysis of fluids.

Microminiature eCompass

Bosch Sensortec

Semiconductors & More-than-Moore Technologies

“More-than-Moore” technologies add functions to normal semiconductor chips in ways not anticipated by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore of “Moore’s Law” fame. These advances can allow chips, for example, to work directly with magnetics and fluids, and to communicate wirelessly.

Control of liquid droplets

Scottish Microelectronics Centre

Microsensors, microactuators

Microsensors can, for example, miniaturise sensing to such an extent that body functions can be monitored internally without disturbance – the “Lab-in-a-pill”. Microactuators miniaturise movement and can, for example, be applied to active noise cancellation, antenna steering and adaptive optics.

Buccal Dose, a system for  the oral application of drugs


Combinational sensing

Human skin is a good example of combinational sensing, as it combines sensitivities to heat and pressure (touch). Combinational sensing provides similar, engineered, solutions in two ways: (1) combining discrete sensors or (2) using one sensor structure to measure several things.

Health & Usage Monitoring System (HUMS)

Heriot-Watt University

Large area sensors / actuators

Large area sensors/actuators take the technologies used for microminiaturisation but spread them over larger areas, (1) as large arrays of sensors, such as used in the CERN experiments and (2) as physically large sensors such as carpets for the medical investigation of how people walk.

Wearable Technology

WEALTHY IST-2001-37778

Multifunctional materials

Multifunctional materials can combine structure with a further function or functions. For example threads which sense heat or moisture could be woven into diagnostic pads for healthcare.

A large range of techniques

EMMI - European Multifunctional Materials Institute

Energy management & scavenging

Energy management & Scavenging technologies allow smart systems to make the most efficient use of resources and to gain their operating power from their surroundings.

Battery monitoring system


Opto/organic/bio data processing

Memory and data processing in electronic computers is now routine. But new ways of data processing, using processes which “bio-mimic” the brain itself are under development.

Neuromorphic computer


Adaptive surfaces

Human skin – already referred to under Combinational Sensing - is also an adaptive surface in that it can control temperature by wrinkling and raising hairs. Technology solutions can now make engineered surfaces that can for example change their aerodynamic properties through control of the boundary layer.

Advances in wind turbine technology


Machine cognition & Human Machine Interfaces

As systems increase in complexity, human limits may constrain their use. Advances in Human machine Interfaces will relieve this situation, and devices that better “understand” the user will provide major advantages in ease and accuracy of operation.

Thales-designed ATR “-600” cockpit