Sensor startup raises funds for dead-reckoning revolution

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

Inertial motion sensor startup Zero Point Motion Ltd. (Bristol, England) has raised £2.58 million in a first round of funding from Foresight Williams. Foresight Williams is a collaboration between Foresight Group and Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE).

Ying Lia Li, with degrees from both Imperial College and University College London, founded Zero Point Motion in 2020 to develop low-cost, high-volume production of optical sensors. These are hybrid devices that use photonics and to read the motion of MEMS masses.

Cavity optomechanics

The company is looking to use cavity opto-mechanics, a highly precise technique used for gravitational wave detection and quantum mechanics experiments, and apply it to mainstream applications such as motion-tracking and precise indoor navigation

The MEMS market is primarily based on capacitive sensing and 1-, 2- and 3D accelerometers and gyroscopes are used for a variety of applications from automotive airbags to smartphones in a market worth about $15 billion annually. However, the IMUs based on these sensors and used in consumer electronics are relatively inaccurate and generally yield poor results without frequent correction from global positioning satellites.

At the same time high-precision IMUs, such as those used in defence and aerospace are bulky and expensive and not suitable for the mass market. It is this gap in the market that Zero Point Motion intends to address.

Bristol’s quantum centre

The funds will be used for hiring a development team, which will be based at the Quantum Technologies Innovation Centre at Bristol University. The money will help pay for engineering samples to be assessed by initial customers and designed into their products, with a view to commercial sales commencing in 2024, the company said.

“We’re ambitious to scale to high volume and transform motion capture, stabilise augmented reality/virtual reality and other image-based systems, and increase the integrity of sensor fusion to enable indoor and autonomous navigation,” said Li, in a statement.

Matthew Burke, head of technology ventures for Williams Advanced Engineering, said: “IMUs are used in many of the sectors WAE operates in, and we look forward to accessing our customer network to support the IMU commercialisation programme.”

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