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Smart Transducer Integrator

“The STI can be readily used for improving sensor networks and communications for a wide variety of applications and has been utilized by several Government agencies such as NASA and the U.S. Navy. The following 2020 NASA Spinoff article describes the benefits of the STI and how it has been used for meeting NASA Stennis Space Center needs.”

The STI is an integration framework for deploying smart sensors and/or advanced communication interfaces. Based on the customized configuration, the STI becomes either: (1) a smart sensor with advanced and customizable features or (2) a communication bridge (wired, wireless RF, or wireless ultrasound through solid barriers). The STI is “smart” because: it includes a digital core with machine-readable Transducer Electronic Data Sheets (TEDS); the control and data associated with transducers are digital; triggering, status, and control are provided to support integration of legacy or new transducers into the STI; and intelligent software functions (such as neural networks) can be included.


The STI inherits the advanced characteristics of AGNC’s past smart sensor products: Autonomous Intelligent Sensor for Tracking Systems (AISTS) and the coremicro Reconfigurable Embedded-Smart Sensor Node (CRE-SSN).

  • The CRE-SSN is a general purpose smart sensor system with a communication stack consisting of commands and reply messages under the IEEE 1451.0 (Dot0) standard and has an automated mechanism for transmitting fault diagnostic messages regarding itself, attached transducers, or monitored systems.

  • For an optimized SWAP-C system with vibration signature recognition, the AISTS was designed for ultra-low power consumption, embedded adaptive pattern recognition by embedded neural networks, and uses a state of the art radiation ruggedized Ferromagnetic RAM (FRAM) device with advanced hardware features.

The STI blends all these capabilities to obtain a customizable hardware and software framework with operation capability at energy harvesting power levels.

The STI is a reconfigurable general-purpose system consisting of a: (i) small 1 in2 main processor unit (MPU) board and (ii) expansion board (baseline of 23.0 in, but smaller form factors are possible) with connection to an optional state-of-the-art vibration monitoring satellite board (e.g. 1.1 in2 AISTS satellite board: /products/AISTS.htm). The STI can be provided in an optional in NEMA, IP 66, and UL listed enclosure (Hammond 1554E2) which has ample space for the MPU Board, Expansion Board, an AA battery pack, cabling, and even a third board up to the same size as the Expansion Board if needed for a user’s application. Smaller enclosures can be used for e.g. MPU only or for the MPU and a smaller expansion board. The modular design allows for custom expansion boards to be attached to the MPU board through an expansion bus, which provides interfacing signals to tailor diverse sensing schemes for specific target applications. Powering of the STI is enabled by four flexible options:

         Rechargeable batteries

         Ultrasonic energy transfer through solid barriers

         Standard batteries


Hardware and software reconfiguration schemes are available for setting the STI either as a:

         Wireless smart sensor (e.g. using ZigBee transceivers)

         Ultrasound based system for operation in confined/inaccessible spaces

         Wired smart sensor

The STI baseline ultrasound communication includes interfaces for thin metal walls and low rate data transferal (max 10 kbit/s). In the case of thick walls, higher data rates, or if different types of structural materials are targeted (such as composites), the STI’s ultrasound interfaces can be customized. For example, the Application Example below shows how the STI was customized for ultrasound communication and powering across a thick steel wall.

As shown in the STI’s block diagram below (large blue rectangle), the MPU board consists of: (a) an ultra-low power consumption processor with FRAM technology from Texas Instruments (MCU block); (b) easy connections to a flexible array of standard ports (UART, SPI, and I2C); (c) cutting edge baseline ultrasound communication interfaces (as in the AISTS main board, and external customized interfaces; (d) embedded standalone temperature event detector (STED) within the STI digital core; (e) expansion bus; (f) power and carrier signal quality monitoring; and (g) powering circuits. The satellite board (depicted at the bottom right) is a small and compact board with a high performance triaxial analog accelerometer and an ultra-low power digital triaxial accelerometer (with rich features support and the ability to awaken the MPU board from vibration events).


Application Example

(energy and data transfer through a thick steel wall)


In a joint effort with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the STI has been successfully applied to transfer data through thick steel walls towards the design of a safe communication bridge for monitoring in critical assets. Looking for an integral solution, a new Size, Weight, Power, and Cost (SWaP-C) optimized system has been developed based on a customization of AGNC’s STI (indicated as STI-4SH in the left side of the figure above). Data rate transfer through a 2.5" steel wall is optimized by: (1) STI-4SH transmission speed optimization (from remote external sensors to local electronics); and (2) a laboratory testbed that enabled to tailor communication methods, characterize transducers and communication medium, and identify computational requirements to increase data-rates. Deployment options for the STI-4SH system are: (a) standalone configuration to enable real-time processing and custom processing applications development and (b) integration to networks. Custom sensor suites can be tailored such as for corrosion monitoring. A demonstration video of the STI-4SH transferring sensor data across a thick steel wall is available at:

where by using the STI-4SH system, highly reliable data transfer was successfully achieved through 2.5” thick steel.

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