Category: Updates

New applications for Time-of-Flight technology

In addition to Chronoptics’ successes in automotive applications and other markets, as we’ve mentioned earlier, the University of Waikato time-of-flight research team continues to develop new insights and techniques to improve the technology. Their recent research is opening up opportunities in zone-based smart-sensing for safety, security and automated touchless interactions at ranges of up to 10 metres.

Existing distance-sensitive technologies in these application areas (like ultrasonic, radar or infra-red sensors, for example) have no, or very poor spatial resolution. An infra-red sensor can detect if there is movement in a room, for example, but it cannot say where the movement is in the room. Active ultrasonic or radar methods can locate objects in 3D space, but they do so by scanning a beam across that space, which means the location and motion of an object is measured very imprecisely and slowly.

In contrast, time-of-flight methods measure the distance to objects in the image at every pixel simultaneously, and precisely. Recent improvements in the technology mean object motion and reflective surfaces in the field of view, which had previously made safety, security and touchless interaction applications very challenging are now much less important than they were previously. WaikatoLink and Chronoptics are currently exploring a range of opportunities in these areas, from easily movable virtual security and safety fences to interactive digital billboards.

If you may have an interest in applications in this area, please contact Commercialisation Specialist Doug Hillyer at doug@waikatolink.co.nz

Battery monitors

Most people have experienced the frustration of having the apparent battery level on their mobile phone go from 50% to 10% in a matter of minutes, or having their car not start because the battery was dead. For more than 200 years, since Alessandro Volta invented the first battery, it has been difficult to accurately measure either how much energy a battery can hold – something that declines over time as a battery ages – or how much energy a partially-depleted battery will supply before it is exhausted. One can determine either of these measurements by draining the battery and measuring how much energy comes out, but that rather defeats the purpose. The University of Waikato’s Professor Jonathan Scott and his colleagues have developed a new understanding and a patent-pending method of measuring a battery’s capacity that WaikatoLink is commercialising with investment from KiwiNet and the University of Waikato, together with battery management solution provider PowerShield.

Specially-designed sensors implementing Professor Scott’s method have so far demonstrated much better performance than existing methods of measuring battery capacity for both Lithium Ion batteries (as found in mobile phones) and Lead Acid batteries (as found in cars and back-up and uninterruptible power supplies). We have demonstrated the technology with naturally-aged batteries as well as artificially-aged batteries, and at voltage ranges from 2 to 16V, and carried out a pilot trial at a telecommunications provider.

The first applications of this technology are likely to be to back-up power supplies for telecommunications and batteries in marine applications – particularly yachts and small ships.

For more information, contact Commercialisation Specialist Anna Henning at ahenning@waikatolink.co.nz

Machine vision for parking management

We mentioned previously that WaikatoLink and Parkable Ltd had partnered to develop next generation parking management technology, using machine learning and computer vision on the edge. With investment from KiwiNet and the University of Waikato, WaikatoLink is developing a computer vision model for processing video images, which will be integrated into Parkable’s existing car park management software.

Since then, the development programme has gone very well and we expect to have a working pilot system in operation in a NZ carpark by the end of May 2021. Carpark owners are increasingly finding benefits from working with Parkable to improve carpark utilisation, while car owners are finding it easier to find a place to park. We expect this University of Waikato technology will help Parkable provide even more benefits to those groups. You can find out more about Parkable at https://parkable.com/

For more information, contact Commercialisation Specialist Shlok Kant at shlok@waikatolink.co.nz

Staff changes in WaikatoLink

Staff changes in WaikatoLink

We welcomed Katrina Churstain as our new Financial Controller in March. Katrina has experience in a range of financial roles, most recently within the University of Waikato.

We welcomed our new Commercialisation Intern Safiya Noorzai in April. Safiya joined us to build her experience in commercialisation after completing a PhD in materials engineering at the University of Waikato.

Finally, we welcomed Stephanie Chernishov in May as our Administration Assistant. Stephanie has had roles in the primary and not-for-profit sectors before, most recently, working in research management in the University of Waikato.

Machine Vision Parking

We’re excited to announce that WaikatoLink and Parkable have partnered to develop next generation parking management tech using machine learning and computer vision on the edge. WaikatoLink is developing a computer vision model for processing video images, which will be integrated into Parkable’s existing car park management software to record occupancy.

What does that mean in practice? With vision software, you could implement a camera that senses the presence of vehicles, tracking how many parking spots are available in real time. 

This is a technological solution aimed at small and medium municipal and private car park owners, with the potential to dramatically change the price point for car park management. Instead of existing in-ground technology (e.g. parking sensors), the new system will process video data in real-time, monitor multiple parking bays at once, and run on several inexpensive computers, removing the need for high bandwidth, expensive servers and cloud processing. 

This technology is being developed by researchers from University of Waikato’s machine learning group, using world-leading methods and technologies that enable machine-vision and machine-learning algorithms to operate in real-time on low-cost ‘edge’ hardware.

For further information please contact Shlok Kant shlok@waikatolink.co.nz or Matt McMahon mmcmahon@waikatolink.co.nz

The Weka Workbench

The Weka Workbench

The Weka Workbench is among the most popular machine learning frameworks in the world. It was developed by computer scientists at the University of Waikato and is used by entry-level data scientists and large multinationals alike, in applications from business intelligence to robotics. It contains a collection of data pre-processing tools and machine learning algorithms wrapped up in an easy-to-use graphical interface.

Weka is a great example of commercial open source software. By choosing a commercial open source model, WaikatoLink has made the software freely available to non-commercial users while generating revenue from issuing paid licenses to commercial users. This revenue helps to support research and continues to improve the platform.

Find out more about Weka here: https://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/ml/weka/

SYP Automatic Fluid Sampler

Evironmental scientists and monitoring agencies analyse water samples to understand our climate, ecology, and the impact of industrialisation and human action on our environment. However, our understanding is limited by our ability to gather frequent and high-quality water samples, which are costly and time-consuming to collect.

The University of Waikato has developed the SYP Automatic Fluid Sampler, purpose-built for the requirements of field-active climate scientists, environmental researchers and water monitoring agencies. University researcher, Dr Adam Hartland, is using the device to build models that can better predict weather patterns and climate conditions. The device allows Adam and his team to conduct rigorous research in new, remote areas.

The prototype unit is in field testing and delivers:

  • Reliable collection and storage of up to 58 discrete, silicon-sealed samples
  • Up to 12 months of continuous operation using AA batteries
  • Gravity-fed or pumped sample collection
  • Concurrent data logging of temperature, pressure, humidity, full vial events
  • Easy transport by disassembly into two halves. Custom carry-bags available.
  • Easy set-up and configuration using an intuitive smartphone app
  • Highly programmable sampling schedules based on time or sensor data

The device will be ready for manufacture and sale in Q4 2020. For pre-orders and further information contact Doug Hillyer dhillyer@waikatolink.co.nz or Matt McMahon mmcmahon@waikatolink.co.nz

Solutions Lab & Bioactives Refinery project

Solutions Lab & Bioactives Refinery project

Congratulations to Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA), Te Awanui and Ligar on the launch of the Solutions Lab and Bioactives Refinery Project on 13 August 2020.

The Solutions Lab will focus on high-value horticulture and plant-based food opportunities and is part of FOMA’s vision to create a high-tech, innovation-based Māori economy and accelerate this by leveraging off the post-Covid recovery.

Te Awanui has largely funded the first Solutions Lab as it seeks to grow revenue through expanding and deepening the impact of horticultural activities, exploring new product ranges, and building capacity.

The Bioactives Refinery Project is a partnership between Te Awanui and the clean technology company Ligar. The project will target bioactive molecules, extracted from plants and refined using Ligar’s unique purification technology, which have commercial potential. The project has begun reviewing the bioactive content in the waste streams from avocado and kiwifruit production. Other plant species, such as hops, hemp seeds and seaweed, as well as native flora species, will be reviewed in the future.

Te Awanui and Ligar are actively seeking commercialisation partners.

WaikatoLink is proud to be an investor in Ligar.

Positively Pregnant app

In July 2020, the Prime Minister signalled more support for maternity mental health https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12351533. Jacinda Ardern pointed to the recent additional funding, announced by the Associate Minister of Health, which “includes $16 million in community maternity work, which will allow us to do things like a maternal mental health pilot and support programmes.”

One of the most challenging transitions in a person’s life is becoming a parent – this involves physical, psychological, social, economic and practical changes, which may become stressors. Researchers at the University of Waikato have created a framework of techniques based on positive psychology to manage these stressors. Lead researcher, Dr Carrie Barber, is a consultant psychologist, a Senior Lecturer in Clinical and Developmental Psychology and has 15 years’ experience in supporting new families during pregnancy and the transition to parenting. With her students, Dr Barber developed an app, available in the iOS and Android app stores, to translate this framework and trial it with New Zealand women.

This app provides a flexible range of tools and strategies to help parents think, plan and find the resources and strategies that work for them and their families. This is based on the CCCC model:

  • Challenges: helping parents identify their challenges
  • Choices: make choices that promote healthy development for themselves and their children
  • Control: focus on aspects of their lives they can control, accept and manage those aspects they cannot
  • Coping: developing personalised menu of adaptive coping strategies

WaikatoLink is currently developing an updated version of the app with improved visuals and are helping to deliver and promote it to the wider community. We’re looking for support from corporates, health groups, mental health organisations, primary care groups, midwives associations, district health boards, NGOs and any other interested groups, please contact Anna Henning ahenning@waikatolink.co.nz or Shlok Kant shlok@waikatolink.co.nz for more details.

Professor Bryony James appointed to the WaikatoLink Board

Professor James joined the WaikatoLink Board in April 2020. As the newly appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Waikato, Bryony leads the University’s strategic and research performance outcomes – improving research performance, increasing research funding and maximising the University’s benefit from the commercialisation of research.

Bryony gained a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Chemical and Materials Engineering from the University of Bath and later moved to the University of Auckland to complete a PhD in Materials Engineering. Bryony has a strong research background in materials science and engineering, and food engineering. Bryony is a Fellow of Engineering NZ, a member of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi, and a member of the Physical Sciences Investment Panel for Return on Science.

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