Child, Pet Dog or Pet Rock? Olea Sensor Networks Knows

Using a multisensor device that includes Doppler technology, combined with proprietary algorithms, the startup is hoping to change the way in which automakers and others design safety systems.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 07, 2015

Last month, Olea Sensor Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup, introduced its sensor platform, made to enable end users to differentiate animate from inanimate objects—and even to determine whether animate objects are human or non-human. The company is now working with a number of businesses on pilot programs to test safety applications.

Olea Sensor Networks' president, Frank Morese, says the key to the company's technology is a set of proprietary algorithms that process data collected from the firm's OS-3001 multi-sensor device, which is roughly the size of a smartphone. The OS-3001 includes a Doppler radar sensor that transmits a 5.8 GHz signal and collects the backscatter signal that bounces off objects within its field of interrogation. An animate object, such as a human body, will absorb some of the energy, while a wall or boulder will not. Additionally, animate objects constantly make very small movements, which inanimate objects do not.

The OS-3001 multi-sensor device
The Olea algorithm uses these different "signatures," as Morese calls them, to determine whether or not objects are animate. Further, the Doppler sensor collects heartbeat and respiration patterns from animate objects, and the software then determines if the animate object is human or non-human, based on those patterns.

"The sensor looks for reflected energy," Morese says, "and in that way, it is similar to an infrared sensor." He notes, however, that an important difference is that infrared technology does not work when the sensor is pointed directly into sunlight.

The Doppler sensor can also operate in total darkness, Morese says, and has a range of 5 to 10 meters (16.4 to 32.8 feet).

The OS-3001 contains a magnetometer, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, an altimeter, and a temperature and humidity sensor. A GPS module is optional. It also includes a display and Olea software that runs onboard, while Olea's graphical user interface software can be used to access the data remotely.

The device connects via a micro-USB port for a wired connection to a host computer, but can also connect to a local network over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The company plans to offer a GSM/GPRS cellular add-on module in the future.

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