Feb 17, 2015
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
We’re all getting used to carrying around big functionality from big machines in our smartphones, but the embedded spectrometer has really started raising eyebrows, especially ours. Over the last few months we’ve worked with Consumer Physics, the Tel Aviv company that developed the embedded spectrometer and the SCiO, on their integration with the DragonBoard Development Kit.
A Spectrometer in Your Pocket
A spectrometer takes in the light that bounces off an object—a tomato, a handful of grain, a patch of earth, a star—and splits it into its components on the light spectrum. This allows deeper analysis into chemical make-up and a true physical sensing of the object, but it has long required large instruments in high-end laboratories run by researchers.
Consumer Physics has not only shrunk the footprint of the spectrometer down to pocket-size, but it has also made the technology available to answer business and consumer questions like these:
Once Consumer Physics had firmed up the hardware and software for the embedded spectrometer, they turned to integrating it with mobile devices. To show the potential fit, they looked for ways to offload work to the CPU of the mobile device. That would allow them to integrate more deeply at the camera stack level and support the format of data they were getting from the sensor.
Integrating the Embedded Spectrometer With DragonBoard
Knowing that devices powered by Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processors are available in a broad number of devices, Consumer Physics started working with the DragonBoard™ based on a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 800 processor from Intrinsyc Technologies Corporation.
SCiO, their current standalone device, includes an optical module connected to a control board. The board performs real-time processing on the raw signal coming out of the optical module, then transmits the results over Bluetooth® to an app running on a mobile phone. The app connects to the cloud, where the data is identified from a database of spectrum measurements.
Consumer Physics engineers used the camera connector on the DragonBoard instead of their own control board, attaching the optical module and letting DragonBoard perform the real-time signal processing and the Bluetooth communication. By integrating their module to a mobile device powered by Snapdragon, they demonstrated that they didn't need a dedicated DSP and Bluetooth chip. And, by extension, they no longer needed a battery, a Bluetooth antenna or other hardware components.
Smaller Footprint, More Power, Bigger Audience
Consumer Physics is focusing on food, agriculture and pharmaceuticals first. They also see eventual applications in raw material verification, automated sorting and agriculture produce monitoring.
The integration with DragonBoard was Consumer Physics’ first opportunity to show a demo on a mobile platform. Naturally, offloading work to the Snapdragon processor resulted in much better run-time performance than on their standalone device, but DragonBoard also saved Consumer Physics a great deal of time. They estimate that without the DragonBoard, their efforts at reducing their hardware requirements for a successful mobile integrated demo would have required much more than the four months it took them.