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What does SMART mean for Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology?

24 Oct 2018   Author: Dr Mark Dineen

 "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" —T.S. Eliot.

Part 5

If you Google the definition of smart the meaning that is appropriate in this context is 'Intelligent or able to think and understand quickly in difficult situations'. 

When thinking about Smart, someone who comes to mind is the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. What is it that makes him so smart? He observes closely, taking in more information from the environment than everyone else. He is able to connect what he observes, and the assumptions he has made based on these observations, with all the other information he has memorized, to make the best possible decisions.

How does this translate into Smart cities and what does it have to do with Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology? The sensor technology which is now present in many more devices than ever before means that we have more data about the environment and activity within it than ever before. The majority of these sensors are based on semiconductor technology. Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology has played a part in the development and manufacture of many such devices.

The list of sensor technologies includes: VCSELs, CCD cameras, RF tags and GPS detectors. So the awareness and understanding of our surroundings is growing constantly. Personally, I have an appalling sense of direction but now I can find out exactly where I am and how to get where I need to be so easily this has reduced the amount of ‘debate’ in my life considerably!

All well and good but monitoring a piece of information doesn’t make for a smart activity. To achieve this you need to do something with it and here is where it gets really interesting…

The connecting of the sensor technology is key to the Smart revolution, connecting from the external data collection point to a central hub. Here again Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology has helped, for example with the InP lasers used to create the light used to transmit the information. Then connecting within the ‘Big Data’ servers and the application of A.I. to make sense of this vast amount of data, new GaN based switches are coming in to play for high frequency data switching at lower power consumption. Then connecting again to transmit the analysis out to the traffic control, out to the person on their mobile …. the amount of connectivity, increasingly brought about by technology using compound semiconductors, is remarkable.

So, what does Smart mean for Oxford Instruments? The devices our customers are producing are sensing and connecting the world around us in ways never seen before. Understanding how and helping them to achieve this with our plasma process solutions is a fascinating role. I am definitely no Sherlock Holmes but even I can see that Smart is the future for all of us.

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