Tyre Pressure Monitoring

The Challenge

A market leader in tyre pressure monitoring was going through a transformation of their product from Analog to Digital. A product that worked in their labs and limited trials failed when put to test in the real environment.

The designers and developers were all baffled by the tricky engineering conundrum they were facing. With contracts already signed and customers waiting for the product, the client wanted to bring on board a consultant with a strong background in accelerometers and signal processing.

The Approach

Plextek consultants audited the design and conducted a thorough analysis of the data and algorithms. Professional tools and standards were used for analysing the data that helped identify the errors at different stages of the design.

Detailed interviews highlighted the disconnect between technical and business functions that resulted in the gradual introduction of errors at different stages rendering the product unusable for real environments.

A new build-measure-learn approach was introduced along with actionable metrics.

The Outcome

Design faults were identified and the product redesigned to required standards. Process improvements were put in place for long term gains. This resulted in saving major contracts and mitigated the potential financial loss for our client.

The new build-measure-learn approach reduced the development cycle from months to weeks and the actionable metrics helped streamline the right actions at the right time.

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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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Personal Location Beacon

The Challenge

Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are personal safety devices for land or sea, best attached to your lifejacket or rucksack for alerting emergency services. PLBs transmit coded data bursts conforming to C/S T.001 specification.

To maximize the chance of detection our client wanted to create a product capable of transmitting on 3 different frequencies. Plextek’s challenge was to design the RF front end to accommodate triband operation, which had never previously been developed.

The Approach

Plextek designed the electronics with a particular focus on that RF front end development. This included the design of power amplifiers, antenna and antenna matching circuits. During the development stage, particular focus was paid to the power consumption requirements.

The Outcome

First Personal Location Beacon to have achieved a tri-band capability with stringent limitations on size, weight, power and cost. Plextek played a key role in helping the client to manage the electronics development whilst keeping to constraints such as battery life, cost and physical dimensions.

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A Passive Radar Identification Tag for Unambiguous Object Localisation

The Challenge

Practical object and vehicle recognition in intelligent and autonomous transport systems remains a data-first problem.

The more unique data that is captured and identified, the more accurate the decisioning models can be.

As part of the Department for Transport’s Transport Technology Research Innovation Grant (T-TRIG), Plextek produced a comprehensive study on a low size, weight and power tagging system which can bounce back a unique radar signal in order to provide exact object and vehicle localisation and recognition.

The Approach

Plextek have successfully developed a low-cost proof of concept demonstrator. This retroreflector ID tag has been lab tested at two typical ranges for its application, 30m – 60m with successful results. Implementing a radar system with optimized power and ramp waveforms would enable the tagging system to continue to work at longer ranges.

The Outcome

The retroflector ID tag study suggests that it can act as a high visibility jacket for high frequency signals and extends the capability of standard automotive radars.

In a smart city landscape, this tag could recognise road signage and infrastructure, other road vehicles and support autonomous convoy operation.

In addition, the tagging system could enable the identification of drones, small aircraft and the monitoring of small craft at sea in poor weather conditions.

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Smart City Parking System

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- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Finding a parking space in a busy city can be frustrating. It is also a leading contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution within urban environments.

Gorizont Telecom approached Plextek to deliver the key enabling technologies for a system to detect occupancy in on-street parking spaces. This real-time data could notify drivers of the available slots to enable smarter parking and alleviate congestion.

This required a highly accurate in-road parking sensor, citywide radio coverage and a secure back-end server with ultra-high availability.

The solution would be implemented in Moscow, Russia and due to the winter weather, the entire project had to be compressed into six months, from initial research through to city-wide deployment. As a result, our sensors would have to cope with harsh temperatures and road conditions.

The Approach

After investigating a number of sensing methods, a magnetometer was selected as the primary sensor. Because neighbouring vehicles, passing vehicles or parallel-parked vehicles can produce false results, we developed signal processing algorithms, threshold manipulation and self-calibration programs to achieve the false trigger rate specified by the client.

The sensors had no external power supply, so they were designed to operate on a low cost internal battery with a five-year lifespan. The radio communications design was a challenge as the top of the sensor had to be flush with the road surface requiring a unique antenna created to fit around other components.

Plextek was also responsible for the design of the base station infrastructure and server that gathered the sensor data and distributed it to user facing Apps and signage.

The Outcome

The whole system was delivered and installed just before the winter freeze, allowing Gorizont Telecom to complete all acceptance criteria.

The radio design allowed a relatively sparse network of base stations to be used to save cost and the straightforward sensor deployment and calibration procedure allowed 11,000 in-road parking sensors to be deployed in two just weeks.

The technology has been successfully re-deployed in other Russian cities, including St. Petersberg.

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