TDK's All-in-One IMU Platform Is as Cute as a SmartBug

Stream motion, temperature, humidity, magnetometer, and IMU data over BLE or Wi-Fi.

At some point, all hardware engineers get an evaluation board for a component. These boards are invaluable for sensors because they offer a rapid method for understanding a sensor's capabilities. However, we can all agree that often eval boards are not one of the most attractive-looking devices. So, it is fantastic to see TDK's SmartBug 2.0. It is a ladybug-shaped wireless module containing TDK's sensors, including their latest low-power inertial motion unit (IMU.)

SmartBug 2.0 measures 50 x 36.6 x 18 millimeters. Natively it communicates via Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) and USB. However, Wi-Fi is available with an optional add-on board that plugs into a pin header on SmartBug's side. That same board also adds an SD-Card reader and Ultrasonic sensor.

This cute-as-a-bug evaluation platform is not TDK's first. The previous generation SmartBug contained sensors for motion, barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity, along with a MEMS magnetometer and an IMU. With Windows-based software, it can stream sensor measurements to a PC. Or, with the add-on board, log that same data to an SD Card.

On the development side, SmartBug supports TDK's Sensor Inference Framework (SIF). This framework allows you to collect IMU sensor data, select custom features, build machine-learning models, and test their performance. Once ready, you can deploy and run the models on a SmartBug.

On the end-user side, the Windows SmartBug software includes examples like a smart door lock, an "air" mouse, and sensor fusion to help you get started quickly. This same software also works with SmartBug 2.0. The IMU is the main difference between the previous module and the new one.

For SmartBug 2.0, TDK upgraded the IMU to their newer ICM-45686-S. This six-axis MEMS sensor measures a scant 2.5 x 3 millimeters and can draw as low as three microamps in its ultra-sleep mode. TDK rates the current draw at 430 microamps when measuring six-axis action motion.

The ICM-456xx family of IMUs targets applications like augmented reality headsets, optical image stabilization, wearables, and any other application that requires gesture or motion tracking.

And unlike every other IMU on the market, the ICM-456xx comes in an evaluation module you will not want to debug!

This page has more information on the first-generation SmartBug. Next, TDK's SmartBug 2.0 press release shows the differences between the two versions. And finally, this ICM-456xx product brief has the technical details on this ultra-low power IMU.

James Lewis
Fan of making things that blink, fly, or beep. Host on element14 Presents,, AddOhms, and KN6FGY.
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