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SPIE Professional January 2014

Innovations in wearable computing, sensors, and satnav win EU contest

Photonics for a better world
Logo for Photonics for a Better World

Two German companies innovating with wearable computing devices have won big in the 2013 European Satellite Navigation Competition, an annual contest recognizing the best products and services that use satellite navigation in everyday life.

German startup Kinexon in November won the Galileo Master prize with a small motion sensor worn by athletes to provide accurate, real-time information on an athlete’s condition and position.

The wearable tracking device, which can provide instant measurements on performance, fitness levels, energy consumption, training load, and other activities, may have applications in healthcare as well.

Kinexon founders Oliver Trinchera and Alexander Hüttenbrink edged out more than 400 entries in the competition with a device based on a small sensor cell that offers precise localization and tracking. Accurate to about 10 cm and updated 20 times a second, it captures even rapid movement.

KINEXON: precise localization and monitoring for sports and healthcare
© Kinexon GmbH, PlaceIt

The cell combines real-time improved satnav with information from internal inertial sensors. The satnav technique increases the precision of position data from the Galileo, GPS, and Glonass satellite constellations by using the phase of the signal’s carrier wave, rather than the satnav signal information content itself.

The cloud-based solution for analyzing and visualizing training data on mobile devices could also be used for round-the-clock monitoring of elderly or sick patients as well.

Photonics provide good vibrations

The competition’s European Space Agency (ESA) Innovation Prize went to entrepreneur Jan Walter Schroeder and his Sensovo team working on a commercial wearable tactile navigation system.

Navipal is a smartphone app with a waist belt that guides the wearer via vibration. The app uses the phone’s internal GPS receiver for positioning and communicates via Bluetooth with the belt.

The belt provides tactile navigation by vibrating one or more of eight motors in the target direction. The vibration intensity and duration changes according to the distance to the next destination point.

Kinexon was supported by the ESA’s Business Incubation Centre, and Sensovo will receive support from the center to continue developing Navipal.

Both products are examples of the use of photonics for a better world.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201401.18

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