Dr Seppo Nissilä, Founder, CEO and Senior Consultant “Sensors are living a life of their own.”
Looking back at his three-decade-long experience in the realm of technology management, measurement and sensor technologies, Dr Seppo Nissilä boiled his learnings down to one sentence. Long before the proliferation of “smart things” reached critical mass, Dr Nissilä’s passion for sensor technologies has been well known in his circle. With time, as tiny, electronic, smart sensors continued to have a big impact and enormous benefits in our lives, Dr Nissilä was concerned about the lack of professional and technical know-how when it comes to sensor technology implementations. With an unwavering commitment and unflinching courage, he set out to navigate the widely unexplored, and largely undiscovered realm of sensor technology and share his rich knowledge with sensor manufacturers. SilverBlip’s genesis was a natural progression to further his resolve to bring about learning and understanding of sensor technologies and their use cases from every corner.
“Unlike a processor, resistor, capacitor or transistor, sensors live a life of their own as they interact with their environment. When it comes to implementing sensor technologies, it is important to understand how the sensor works, what it measures, and what it doesn’t. How other things affect the sensor and how the sensor reacts to disturbances, environmental changes or in any circumstance. If you don’t know, unexpected effects will appear sooner or later, and they will cause, almost every time, a lot of troubles,” stresses Dr Nissilä, founder, CEO and senior consultant at SilverBlip—a Finnish company focusing on sensor technology and IPR consulting.
Despite sensor technologies witnessing rapid advancements—sensing modules with 9-axis in smaller than 10 mm² footprint, high-resolution spectral sensors, small dimension RF transceivers, high power scanning LiDARs, and more—Dr Nissilä observes a gaping hole in the market. As organisations view a sensing solution as just a sensor, Dr Nissilä begs to disagree. Turns out, a sensing solution also includes all the elements affecting the measurement condition and event, along with other sensors to improve accuracy, specificity and data reliability. However, the challenge boils down to understanding the sensor’s application and the use case. Most sensor manufacturers, he notes, hold rich experience and know-how about their sensor itself, but somehow lack the understanding of their customers’ applications. This is precisely what Dr Nissilä and his team at SilverBlip intends to change. “It is imperative for customers to be aware of the sensor properties and how it behaves in all conditions,” he adds.
On one side, there is an increasing need to improve accuracy of one sensor, let say for example to track your hand movement when you swipe or scroll your smartphone to skip Facebook or Google advertisements, and on another side, to build a sensing system of different components to manage a flying drone to harvest ripe fruits.
According to Dr Nissilä, sensor components are maturing, which make them further attractive for utilization in different applications and in high volumes. He also adds that the sensing use cases are constantly evolving and the needs are becoming more challenging by the day. The big wave in sensing technology, for example, is the stability’s transition of a gyroscope sensor from 60 degree/hour to 5 degree/hour.
Just as a curiosity, the earth under us turns 15 degrees/hour.
This aforementioned challenging scenario for the sensor manufacturers and their customers changed in the year 2012 with the arrival of SilverBlip—a company that specialises in supporting businesses to be more successful with its wide and deep competence and experience in sensor technologies. With world-class consultation and partnership, SilverBlip brings its 30 years of rich experience to the table to help its clients with reports, analysis, projects or co-operation tasks pertaining to R&D, business and strategy activities and targets. SilverBlip also provides high-class patent and IPR consultation and strategy planning, invention analysis and novelty and patentability studies, as well as services for technical patent and competition analysis. “Besides finding the right sensor solution for specific purposes, our intent is not only to find a solution but also provide learning when working with sensors—the core to changing lives and businesses in the long run,” says Dr Nissilä.
SilverBlip is an independent partner having extremely wide experience of providing sensor solutions for different applications and platforms. With its own sensor technology knowhow, market reports, and analysis portfolio, the company has worked for seven years in a row, churning out numerous technically and commercially successful customer projects in medical, health care, mobile, industry, and automotive areas. Each application area has its own specific needs and features, but the sensing core is pretty similar. So learning from one area can be utilized in another. The company brings in the unprecedented understanding of sensors—the physical or chemical principle of a sensor element and the electrical sensing principles and components—to analyse different approaches and select the optimum one for a specific purpose. “Unlike unspecific sensor solutions which tend to be easily eyewash and a sign of sloppy work, our solution not only saves money and time but also keeps the end customer’s credence,” adds Dr Nissilä.
Strengthening The Know-How Across Industries
SilverBlip’s clientele ranges across big sensor volume manufacturers, highly-focused sensor solution providers, well-known mobile, sport, and health application product manufacturers and sharp-edge industrial solution providers. SilverBlip empowers these clients to fulfil their intention of offering the best sensing experiences or accurate and selective sensor outputs. The company also delivers solutions to technology and market research clients who are looking forward to getting a deep technology view for enhancing and strengthening their market data. SilverBlip also works with investors and patent law and litigation offices to provide expert views and technical analysis. The company equips the clients with its unmatched and in-depth technical know-how to avoid pitfalls and allow them to concentrate on the right steps patenting path. When it comes to learning from sensor patents, SilverBlip gives a valuable hint on checking patent databases to learn more about what extreme solutions others have proposed.
Keeping up with the detailed and focused technical patents of the new sensors, SilverBlip not only provides its clients with experienced and professional IP service and analysis for sensor solutions but also the freedom-to-operate and novelty studies during the projects.
Many sensing solutions are nowadays using multiple sensors, thanks to their tiny size and low cost. For example, an activity band or smart watch is using an accelerometer for step and motion detection, optical sensor for heart rate detection, temperature sensor for skin temperature, and possible ambient light sensor and temperature sensor for detection of indoor or outdoor conditions.
Multiple sensors provide a lot of data that can be enhanced for more accurate and complex data analysis. However, multi-sensor solutions have to be carefully analysed in each use case, because no sensor is perfect, and multiple non-perfect sensors can create traps which may be interesting or catastrophic. For example, sleep monitoring uses very different sensing principles for heart rate, breathing, blood oxygenation and body movements. SilverBlip has experienced and witnessed that simple data combinations can easily lead to wrong or unspecific analysis, but also taking sensing and sensor reality into consideration for data analysis, the reliability of the system can be improved remarkably.
Another hot current sensing area, namely autonomous cars and robots utilizes numerous sensor systems. While one sensor cannot solve all complex challenges, efficiently combining and utilizing data from different sensing solutions and also managing situations where certain sensors do not work properly or detect everything, is a heavy task. Silverblip has worked on this area over the past many years, and believes that combining together all the sensor elements like motion sensors, laser rangefinders, RF radars, cameras (visible and infrared) and ultrasonic, and using powerful data analysis with artificial intelligence, the system reliability increases step by step. Learning and development can be dramatically accelerated when each component of the sensor system is known and understood very well; how it works, and how it detects an object, and how its signal behaves in different right and error situations.
SilverBlip provides the required knowledge to recognise the gaps created by a lack of expertise and know-how and subsequently fills them to help the clients understand what the self-driving car is capable of.
Sky-High Success Streak
Clearly, the uniqueness of SilverBlip stems from its profound expertise in sensor technology that the company employs to script highly dynamic customer success stories. To mention one, SilverBlip provided a technical background and analysis to a large market analysis client. The project involved the utilisation of LiDARs, which are inherently complex systems having laser transmitters, scanners, and optical receivers. SilverBlip empowered the client to understand the different sensing principles for comparing different technologies and evaluating their advantages and disadvantages and market potentiality. In a nutshell, with SilverBlip’s proficiency and dexterity, the client was successful at leveraging the LiDARs as per their required applications.
Moving ahead, SilverBlip is primed to reap the benefits of 5G technology. Understanding how 5G technology is helping mitigate the current limitations in the sensing space, SilverBlip has already started working with the 5G transceivers, which are adopting a lot of new sensors and applications on the move. For instance, while walking, the 5G base station nodes equipped with sensors monitor not just the activity of the data in air, but also activity on the street through their proximity sensors, and also collect other information in the near vicinity. To make a long story short, 5G is expanding the sensing capabilities by enhancing the way data is going to be collected in the near future. In the same vein, SilverBlip will be collecting the required environmental data to add more telecommunication nodes or 5G base stations every 100 meters apart.
“The successful utilization of sensors is all about learning and understanding their use cases from every corner. We will be bringing an experienced view and opinion and combining it to the customer’s own experience and know-how to facilitate an even open and trustworthy approach,” concludes Dr Nissilä.