Transforming industrial mobility, smart cities, and autonomy
It’s a thrill today to announce that our company, Humatics, has just acquired 5D Robotics and its subsidiary, Time Domain, radically accelerating the Humatics vision to enable more fluid interactions between people, robots, and infrastructure. Locate, navigate, collaborate.
Humatics is set to introduce microlocation systems that provide millimeter-scale positioning in industrial environments like factory work cells. Time Domain has a comprehensive patent portfolio and leads the world in accurate microlocation out to 500 meters of range. 5D, which acquired Time Domain in 2016, shares our vision of autonomous systems doing useful work in deep connection to the human world. We have known them and their technologies for a long time and are already working as one team.
The combined companies have expanded our Humatics Spatial Intelligence Platform™ to include microlocation positioning at everything below the GPS scale, indoors and out, in all weather and lighting environments, propelling us from the factory floor into the world of mobility and smart cities. We are thrilled to welcome our new colleagues in Huntsville, Alabama, and Carlsbad, California. They bring a wealth of experience in RF systems, chip design, product development, and autonomy software, expanding our team immeasurably. Humatics’ marketing and sales team have already begun expanding the commercial portfolio.
As an entrepreneur, people often ask – “What problem are you trying to solve?” For Humatics, the problem is simple, yet profound – “Where am I?” and its essential corollary “Where am I going?” Today we are dependent on a world of location, for everything from hailing a ride to constructing buildings. But GPS, a technological marvel that it is, only provides precision down to the size of a house, or half a city block in some cases. And it doesn’t work indoors. Think of the big blue circle that appears on the mapping app on your phone: sometimes six meters across, sometimes 60. Nearly all human and robotic work happens within an area the size of that circle, where GPS can’t locate you. Navigation is always a systems problem: it requires a mix of sensors fused by software. Yet without Humatics microlocation, we lack good solutions below the GPS scale.
Now imagine a world where the spaces we inhabit every day – offices, parking garages, public spaces – have precise, secure positioning widely available. With Humatics microlocation system, robots accommodate to people, rather than the other way around. On construction sites, materials handling vehicles provide supplies, just-in-time, to skilled craftspeople. Using centimeter-scale navigation, robotic manipulators autonomously approach industrial workstations; there they enter zones of millimeter-scale precision and perform work with the accuracy of machine tools. Production managers then reconfigure them to do it again, in a different way, enabling a truly flexible factory.
GPS in urban environments is notoriously unreliable. Today’s driverless cars navigate by interpreting images of infrastructure, like stop signs, designed for the human eye more than a hundred years ago. It’s an uncertain, data-heavy and computationally intensive process. Shouldn’t the city talk directly to the car’s control system in the precise digital language it understands? With the Humatics microlocation system, driverless cars can find their way with centimeter precision regardless of snow, ice, dust on the sensors, or bad cell phone data (and without dependence on infinitely detailed maps updated in perfect real-time). In complex human settings like cities, factories, and construction sites, new varieties of autonomous vehicles – from delivery drones to air taxis – can provide useful work on a robust, reliable basis.
These are just some of the applications enabled by autonomy when we can locate, navigate, and collaborate. Some of these applications are here today – proving themselves daily in the most complex urban and industrial environments. With this acquisition, Humatics transforms from a startup developing technology to an established company with proven products on the market, operating in safety-critical environments.
Of course, there’s a great deal of innovation to come, as we continue to develop products and introduce new technology with Humatics’ patented millimeter accuracy. Over the course of this year, we will announce new partnerships, products, and software. But as of today, Humatics is transforming the business of industrial mobility, smart cities, and autonomy.