Duplex Radio for Emergency Services

The Challenge

Our client is a leading provider of radio systems for mission-critical communications including handheld and vehicle-based products for emergency services, airports and utilities. To help them meet a new EU digital radio standard it asked Plextek to design and develop a new dual mode (digital and analogue) device from the ground up – but able to integrate with its existing software.

Given the challenging usage environment the design called for a rugged & compact design versatile enough to suit a wide-range of professional users. It required stringent waterproofing (IP67), enhanced battery life, GPS and Bluetooth.

The Approach

Working with our industrial designer we produced a concept for the 2-way radio including a colour screen, Push-to-Talk (PTT) capability with full-duplex calls and a keypad – touchscreens are notoriously unreliable with wet gloves! The design required a unique antenna and a very compact electronics package. We overcame technical issues affecting the potential robustness of the device i.e., installing waterproof material behind the keypad to prevent water damage to the microphone/speaker. We designed and developed all the internal electronics and case works and worked with the client’s supply chain, introducing new suppliers and processes as required.

The device was rigorously tested to check stability, certified to a variety of standards including MIL STD 810G, CE & FCC and we subsequently worked with the client’s tooling suppliers and handed over to its manufacturer in Taiwan.

The Outcome

Over 18 months we had developed the world’s first full-duplex DMR radio. The product delivered state-of-the-art digital technology with secure, unsurpassed audio quality and the company was able to manufacture more than 10,000 devices a year. The device continues to be used internationally and remains one of the company’s most popular products with police, public safety and even the mountain rescue!

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Sensors for Automatic Passenger Counting

The Challenge

In order to highlight and target passenger safety and security on public transport, Plextek was tasked to develop non-camera, sensor-based technology, which was highly accurate, compact and unobtrusive and could be positioned in the doorway of buses, trains and trams.

The sensor needed to provide a resolution to identify multiple and simultaneous passenger movements, as well as present the client with a low material and manufacturing cost per unit.

The Approach

We first developed and optimised the necessary algorithms and produced a demonstration of how the customised technology would work. Downward-pointing rows of sensor modules above or next to the doors were installed to count the number of passengers as they entered.

A range of different ultrasonic and infrared modules were tested. The performance was then evaluated in real-world transport environments to see if there was any discrimination between the recording of people and objects.

The materials and manufacturing costs of the sensor assemblies were then value engineered and investigated to see if the project was viable.

The Outcome

Rigorous testing of the sensors proved that they had the potential to be able to overcome camera-based limitations and were able to distinguish individuals entering or leaving to very high accuracy. It was also found to be a feasible and effective solution on a variety of forms of transport, including trains, the tube, buses and also at airports.

We delivered two evaluation options; a single sensor and a dual-sensor system, for additional accuracy and resilience. Finally, we established mechanisms to reduce manufacturing costs and recommended the next pre-production steps.

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Immersive Technology for Complex Systems Training

"Virtual Reality offers the potential for an extremely engaging and immersive experience that can present highly effective opportunities for learning and development”.
- Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare

The Challenge

Effective training requires immersion in a realistic environment where appropriate skills can be developed. However, it can be hard to replicate some situations for training purposes, for example, hazardous or complex environments.

It is vital to measure the effectiveness of training procedures in order to define the overall value in the training programme. Often companies employ ‘train-the-trainer’ structures to cascade knowledge & skills, and it is imperative that the quality and reach of training is measured.

Our client required a cost-effective training system to ensure specialist procedures were followed, which operated in a complex environment and produced a measurable outcome.

The Approach

Complex systems require complex training procedures, and immersive systems are a powerful means of generating realistic training environments that can be accurately configured to meet the client’s needs.

Through close observation of our client’s training methods, we captured their domain insight and evidence-based content. We then applied our software and imaging capabilities to develop an immersive virtual training environment using Oculus Rift.

Our ‘interactive training world’ uses a dynamic structure to measure effectiveness through the trainee’s choices and decisions, which can then be used to tweak the system to improve its effectiveness.

The Outcome

Our modular VR training approach provided the client with a flexible, validated training solution that was straightforward to use, and can be deployed at scale.

A direct training approach has also enabled the client to improve their training content based on end-user feedback, providing invaluable insight into the key requirements for specific training scenarios.

We demonstrated the value of conducting training in realistic VR environments, especially those that were complex or hazardous, and how those systems could be set up to provide useful feedback.

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Microwave Camera for Detecting Hidden Objects

Home » Case Study » Security

The Challenge

Our client, the Department for Transport (DfT), awarded Plextek with the Transport Technology Research and Innovation Grant (T-TRIG) to conduct a research study into the improvement of aviation security and screening procedures at airport checkpoints.

Objects concealed on a person or in luggage remain a threat in all public places but especially in airports. Methods currently used to image people and hand luggage, such as x-ray and terahertz systems, typically require subjects to be stationary and cooperative.

This leaves a wide range of trade-offs including equipment cost, measurement speed, screening safety and passenger congestion and discrimination.

The Approach

Plextek proposed a Microwave Camera, capable of real-time detection imaging of hidden objects, with a non-intrusive implementation approach.

Microwaves, due to the low frequency, are intrinsically safe to pass through the body and can characterise and discriminate a range of materials, including explosive devices and weapons.

A parabolic reflector enables a system of significantly lower cost compared to existing large-area sensing arrays. Technical modelling and analysis were then implemented to calibrate the reflector to receive real-time imaging. Capable of imaging people at 2-4 metre distances, this architecture can allow the scanning of people walking towards it in a ‘free flow’ passenger channel.

The Outcome

Our solution provides a safe, low cost, a fast alternative technology that had to be less intrusive and time-consuming than the current system.

Our solution uses lower frequencies and channels passengers through a corridor, allowing them to walk freely while being scanned by the microwave camera. We think this will reduce error ratings and ease passenger flow.

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Surveillance Radar for Comprehensive Threat Detection

Home » Case Study » Security

The Challenge

Our client, a world leader in providing state-of-the-art perimeter surveillance systems, wanted a radar capable of long-range detection with a low false-alarm rate.

It required the use of standard industrial components across all system parts and be designed for the lightweight, compact & man-portable form factor.

The Approach

Plextek utilised Passive Electronically Scanned Arrays (PESA) for electronic scanning combining Doppler processing.

Using standard industrial parts minimalises manufacturing costs, and the solution was delivered with no moving parts, eliminating the need for routine maintenance.

The Outcome

Our solution was able to detect the presence of moving personnel and vehicles at a range of several kilometres.

The technology is capable of simultaneous target detection for both close and long-range distances, scanning hilltops and valleys without manually tilting the radar.

We also incorporated low radio transmission power to allow for safe human operation. In feedback, our solution fulfilled all our client’s unique requirements.

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