Dr. Alain-Serge Porret

Vice President, Integrated and Wireless Systems, CSEM SA


From Smart Sensors to Smart Data


The number of interconnected devices is generally expected to continue to increase exponentially, as wearable sensors in our clothes or on our wrists, for implantable health monitors, at home to guarantee our comfort, to improve the security of our transport infrastructure, to track goods, etc... In order for this vision to materialize, however, most of these sensor nodes need to interact wirelessly with the network and, ultimately, become fully autonomous – both in terms of energy and data processing. Firstly, they need to consume so little power that either they are able to operate on a battery lasting for the whole life of the device, or they are equipped to scavenge enough energy from their surroundings for their operation. Additionally, because transmitting data is energetically costly, any sophisticated sensor will be required to process the information it gathers locally in order to share only the relevant reports – therefore calling for embedding intelligence at the "edge" of the network and not just in the cloud.

This presentation will discuss some key challenges associated with building such frugal, yet smart, wireless sensors, and how new technologies in the field of telecommunications, microelectronics and artificial intelligence are foreseen to provide solutions applicable across a variety of verticals. This differentiated approach lies in sharp contrast with today’s more common "everything to the cloud" model, pushed by the data juggernauts such as the GAFA, and might help curbing the onslaught of energy and resources data centers increasingly require (think cryptocurrencies as one of the worst offenders) to collect, store and process mostly worthless data junk. By design, it is also better suited to the business context and culture of many Swiss companies, as well as more in line with new and upcoming privacy legislation such as the European GDPR.


Alain Porret is VP, Integrated and Wireless Systems, at CSEM. He leads a team focusing on ultra-low-power solutions for IoT applications, wearables, industrial process monitoring, from analog sensing to edge or cloud data processing. Previously, he spent 13 years in Silicon Valley where he co-founded several start-ups in the consumer electronics space. He earned his Ph.D. from EPFL (Switzerland) by contributing to the then-new topic of ultra-low-power wireless communication.