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Internet of Things (I), Semiconductors (S), and Photonic (PH) Devices and Materials

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Program director

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Rick Schwerdtfeger

Pre-submission feedback

Submit an Executive Summary to gauge if a project meets the program's intellectual merit and commercial impact criteria. Please note that responsiveness will likely be limited in the 2 weeks leading up to the solicitation deadline.

Technology topic

Internet of Things (I), Semiconductors (S), and Photonic (PH) Devices and Materials

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly evolving field that involves the interconnection and interaction of smart objects (objects or devices with embedded sensors, onboard data processing capability, and a means of communication) to provide automated services that would otherwise not be possible. IoT is not a single technology, but rather involves the convergence of sensor, information, communication, and actuation technologies.

Today, most of what we consider as IoT is a variety of largely stand-alone devices and isolated systems, such as wearable fitness monitors, home thermostats and lighting, remote video streaming, smartphones, and smart watches. Emerging IoT implementations will use smaller and more energy- efficient embedded sensor technologies, enhanced communications, advanced data analytics, and more sophisticated actuators to collect and aggregate information and enable intelligent systems that understand context, track and manage complex interactions, and anticipate requirements.

IoT is expected to become ubiquitous, with implementations in the smart home - management of energy use, control of appliances, monitoring of food and other consumables; consumer applications - health and fitness monitoring, condition diagnosis; manufacturing and industrial settings - supply chain management, robotic manufacturing, quality control, health and safety compliance; utility grids and other critical infrastructure - grid optimization, automated fault diagnosis, automated cyber security monitoring and response; and automotive/transportation - optimization for driving conditions, assessing driver alertness, collision/accident avoidance, managing vehicle health.

Market verticals that are potentially impacted by innovations in this area include Connected Cities and Homes, Smart Transportation, Smart Agriculture, Industrial IoT, and Retail IoT. Proposals are encouraged that address key challenges across the full range of IoT applications

IoT1. IoT Sensors and Actuators

IoT is on track to connect 50 billion “smart” things by 2020, and one trillion sensors soon after. This subtopic includes (but is not limited to) innovations in device and materials technology to enable new sensor functionality, further sensor miniaturization, improved sensor performance or more efficient energy use; actuator technologies to enable new IoT functionalities; and device packaging innovations that enable further sensor or actuator miniaturization and embedding in a greater range of smart objects and devices.

IoT2. IoT Energy and Power Systems

Many of the components that enable IoT will have to operate in severely power constrained network edge environments, requiring improvements in energy efficiency in simple, low-cost systems. In many cases, the devices will not have a consistent power supply, and local energy harvesting will therefore be required. This subtopic includes (but is not limited to) novel power management integrated circuits aimed at miniaturizing devices and increasing energy efficiency; power management systems for energy harvesting to enable mobile or remote IoT devices and systems; and smart power protocols for IoT devices. This subtopic can also include broader categories of energy-efficient technologies to enable mobile IoT applications, such as displays, power efficient IC’s, and innovative mobile battery solutions.

IoT3. IoT Communications

Enabling ubiquitous connectivity and the aggregation of IoT data presents key data processing and communications challenges as the industry tries to simplify and define how “smart” things interact. A wide variety of communication solutions, both wired and wireless, will likely emerge. This subtopic includes (but is not limited to) innovations that will substantially improve the underlying technical performance, or extend the functionality, of IoT communication systems. Particular emphasis is placed on low-power and dataefficient communications schemes, as these are required to enable IoT in resource-constrained environments. Examples of relevant technical fields include (but are not limited to): short range and long distance transmission technologies - optical, RF, microwave or ultrasonic; communication signal sources and detectors - optical (lasers, LEDs, photodetectors), RF, microwave or ultrasonic; and electronic or optoelectronic signal processing technologies to facilitate efficient low-power data transmission or reception.

IoT4. IoT Integrated Systems

Many of the benefits of IoT require the full integration of complex systems to enable developers to build innovative service delivery platforms. This subtopic includes (but is not limited to) new design and development platforms that facilitate widespread adoption of IoT; IoT systems with the flexibility to allow rapid development and deployment of new use cases and functionalities; and shared platforms designed for lean, power-constrained environments that enable the easy integration of sensors and actuators, communication technologies, and data processing to create new business models for IoT.

IoT IT. Cloud, Big Data and Security and Privacy (see IT portfolio topics)

Data is rapidly emerging as the most important currency driving IoT. Offloading computation to the cloud, providing overall system security, and guaranteeing the privacy of users remain key challenges in IoT. Companies developing innovations in these spaces should refer to the IT topics of this SBIR/STTR solicitation.

Photonics (PH)

The Photonics topic addresses the research and development of new materials, devices, components, and systems that have the potential for revolutionary change in the optics and photonics industries. Proposals should be motivated by market opportunity, a compelling value proposition, clearly identified end users and customers of the proposed technology, and a viable pathway to commercialization.

PH1. Lighting and Displays

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) solid state lighting and smart lighting systems and controls, energy efficient display technologies, light emitting diodes (inorganic, organic or quantum dot), display backplane technology, and transparent conductors.

PH2. Communications, Information, and Data Storage

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) optical communication and networking infrastructure and components, photonic integrated circuits, new materials and systems for data storage, novel components for network applications, and multifunctional and other novel optical fibers implementations.

PH3. Energy

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) photovoltaic materials and devices, systems for smart glass applications, breakthrough thermophotovoltaics, metamaterials, and materials and systems for solar thermal applications.

PH4. Advanced Metrology and Sensors

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) sources and detectors for advanced IR systems, advanced remote sensing systems, sources and detectors for advanced microscopy, novel camera systems for 3D metrology, and advanced imaging systems.

PH5. Advanced Optical Components and Systems

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) the building blocks for next generation optical components and systems, such as new photonic materials, breakthrough process technologies, nanophotonics, biophotonics, plasmonics, photonic integrated circuits, and manufacturing techniques to enable low-cost breakthroughs for advanced photonic components. Proposals in this area should take special care to clearly highlight real market opportunity and a compelling value proposition for the technology.

Semiconductors (S)

The Semiconductors topic addresses the research and development of new designs, materials, devices, and manufacturing systems that have the potential for impactful change in the semiconductor industry. Proposals should be motivated by market opportunity, a compelling value proposition, clearly identified end users and customers of the proposed technology, and a viable pathway to commercialization. The program encourages cooperation with the semiconductor industry to address current challenges as well as new frontiers.

S1. Electronic Materials

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) novel semiconductor materials, magnetic materials, advanced thermal management materials for device integration, materials for advanced lithography, and materials for high-temperature, high-power, or high-frequency applications.

S2. Electronic Devices

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) advanced semiconductor devices, bioelectronics and biomagnetics, quantum devices, magnetic and multiferrous and spintronics devices, memory devices, power electronics, flexible electronics, and nanoelectronic devices.

S3. Processing and Metrology Technology

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) processing and metrology technologies that enable low cost, high performance or novel, advanced semiconductor devices.

S4. Integrated Circuit Design

Subtopic includes (but is not limited to) low power circuits and architecture, novel chip architectures, and the integration of nano- to micro-scale devices on circuits.