Infrared Sensor For Autonomous Vehicles
Digital Direct IR has developed and patented a thermal infrared sensor designed to enhance automotive safety and assist autonomous vehicles.
The sensor — a uniquely-designed, high-resolution camera — complements existing automotive sensors and helps give each vehicle a detailed picture of its surroundings at all times.
With more than five million car accidents in the U.S. each year, and another million deer-related incidents, the need to provide drivers with added safety features is critical.
One way vehicles are becoming safer is through the use of technology — for example:
“Smart” cars operate using multiple sensors, which are able to capture data on both the vehicle and its surroundings. Onboard computers then analyze the data in real time, and make critical decisions 100x faster than humans can.
In addition, artificial intelligence is being applied to autonomous vehicles, and car companies are installing more and more automated driver-assistance systems.
In fact, the market for active safety devices reached five billion dollars in 2017, and is projected to surpass twenty-five billion dollars in 2025.
This is a hot market for M&A. For example, in 2017, Intel acquired Mobileye, a start-up creating computer systems for autonomous driving technology, for fifteen billion dollars.
As the automotive industry continues to make progress, manufacturers are continuously searching for products and ideas to make driving safer.
This goal is where Digital Direct enters the picture. The company’s mission is to create technology that can save lives and make autonomous vehicles a reality.
Digital Direct’s sensor relies on infrared thermal technology. Infrared sensors can detect objects that are warm (such as pedestrians or animals) and hot (such as machines or car engines). These sensors can detect items through elements including smoke and fog, and can see twice as far as standard car headlights.
In addition to thermal technology, Digital Direct’s camera lens is curved, whereas most lenses are flat. This design enables more advanced, higher-resolution image capturing.
Put together, Digital Direct’s sensor offers multi-spectrum image-capturing at a fifty percent to ninety percent lower cost than other thermal sensors.
The company will sell its sensors for $400, and is targeting the eighty million cars produced every year. If its sensors were added to just one percent of those cars, the company would generate revenue of $320 million.
Digital Direct breaks its progress-to-date into three phases:
In Phase 1, the company developed a proof of concept for its thermal imaging detector, patented the technology, and produced a beta version of the camera's lens.
In Phase 2, the company published its proof of concept in Emerging Materials Research, a peer-reviewed science journal published by the Industry of Civil Engineering.
And in Phase 3, Digital Direct tested and vertified its imaging detector with SB Microsystems, a company that develops and produces the detector's components.
While the company is currently developing its sensor for the transportation industry, its device could potentially expand to other markets, including:
- Healthcare: the sensor could be shrunk and put into pill form. The camera could then be used to detect tumors in the gastrointestinal tract at a very early stage.
(In fact, such an application is feasible, as evidenced by Covidien’s (NYSE: COV) 2014 acquisition of Given Imaging (Nasdaq: GIVN) for $830 million. Given is a med-tech company focused on products that help visualize, diagnose, and monitor the human body.)
- Safety/Security: the sensor could be used in various municipality infrastructure projects, including parking lots, convention centers, and airports.
- Drones: the sensor is lightweight and requires minimal power to use, making it ideal for drones. In fact, Digital Direct is negotiating a potentially large order from a drone company.
Howard has more than thirty years of experience in military and commercial technology sales, with a specific focus on specialized batteries.
He is a board member of Digital Direct and has been with the company since its inception.
Peter has more than forty years of experience in the electronics manufacturing and product design industries.
His specific areas of focus include consumer electronics, electronics hardware design, medical devices, and autonomous vehicle imaging technology.
He earned a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from The City College of New York.