Proximity sensor improves distance sensing in mobiles, consumer, industrial designs

October 09, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
STMicroelectronics has a highly accurate optical range-finding module based on its FlightSense time-off-flight technology that offers designers superior distance-measurement capability.

FlightSense provides accurate distance sensing by measuring the time for emitted light to reflect back from the target, whereas conventional sensors can only report reflected signal levels and not absolute distance. The technology offers advantages over conventional infrared sensors; measuring longer ranges that are independent of the target reflectivity, at high frame rate and low power.

ST's VL6180X module combines FlightSense proximity sensing with an ambient-light sensor (ALS) and supports basic gesture recognition to simplify the user-interface design while also offering enhanced performance. This new device supports a wide range of creative use cases across multiple markets, including smartphones, tablets, and game controllers, while also improving the performance of consumer appliances and industrial products.

The VL6180X module occupies a 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.0 mm optical LGA12 package and can accurately measure the distance to objects at up to 100mm or even farther, subject to operating conditions. The module provides an I²C interface for host control and reading ranging or ambient light level results, as well as two programmable GPIO pins that can be configured to implement threshold applications.

The accompanying VL6180X Explorer evaluation kit allows the designer to quickly get started with FlightSense™ technology and supports the development of applications in a real device. It combines a USB-pluggable STM32Nucleo board and VL6180X sensor shield containing the sensor, a 4-digit LED display, and a slider switch to control the ranging and ALS functions. The display shows either the distance to the target or the ambient light level.

The VL6180X sensor costs from $2.50 (5,000) and the VL6180X Explorer kit is priced from $19.69 per unit.

STMicroelectronics; www.st.com/proximitysensor