Cambridge deep tech FocalPoint raises £6M to end GPS accuracy issues in wearables, vehicles & IoT
One major piece of technology most of us use everyday is GPS or Global Positioning System. And the biggest concern which haunts the GPS-integrated devices or wearables is the accuracy issue.
FocalPoint Positioning, the deep-tech company which aims to solve these issues and is working on the accuracy of GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), has just announced £6 million Series B funding from Draper Esprit.
Operating out of Cambridge and Bristol, with the team drawn from Cambridge University’s Experimental and Theoretical Physics department, BAE Systems and the European Space Agency, FocalPoint’s prominent IP solves the fundamental limitations of satellite positioning systems such as GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou.
In a conversation with UKTN, FocalPoint’s founder and CEO, Ramsey Faragher, reveals more about its future plans.
Faragher notes that the current funding will be utilised to accelerate its product roadmap and scale up the company. “This is to capitalise on increased demand we are witnessing from the smartphone, smartwatch, IOT and automotive sectors. We will also be able to roll out our flagship Supercorrelation and D-Tail products to new sectors for innovative use cases, and continue to grow our portfolio of patents,” Faragher says.
Increasing positioning accuracy by up to 10x
The positioning technology is in no way perfect. Inaccurate satellite positioning is a real problem caused by obscured, reflected and weak satellite signals. We all have experienced GPS related issues with our devices, smartwatches and fitness wearables, and this is the key issue being solved by FocalPoint.
Faragher remarks, “We make GPS more accurate, reliable and secure. This is to assist in the at-scale roll-out of novel innovations such as autonomous vehicles, delivery drones and indoor/outdoor navigation. FocalPoint supercharges that little GPS chip inside your smartphone or sportwatch, to deliver more accurate and reliable blue dot on a map, especially in cities,”
He further details the startups’ two new ‘game-changing’ technologies; Supercorrelation and D-Tail. These are software and firmware-level solutions, respectively, and as per Faragher, “With FocalPoint’s Supercorrelation technology, the satellite positioning accuracy is improved by 10x, and combining both of our technologies together can deliver centimetre-level location information both indoors and outside.”
So, how does the tech ultimately benefit the users? Imagine a swift GPS locking for anything that requires your position, be it ordering food, tracking steps or taking a cab. Of course, there are many other positive implications of the new technology.
Back to basics for fierce competition
With its new technologies, FocalPoint goes back to the basics. Instead of using additional infrastructure utilising tech like Bluetooth beacons or LIDAR, it uses advanced physics and maths in a software upgrade, which fundamentally changes the existing GPS receiver’s capability. This can, virtually, upgrade any device via a software upgrade on the chip and thus, is touted to be both ubiquitous and affordable.
Delving a bit deeper, Faragher reveals more about how its award-winning technology works. “Our Supercorrelation product uses advanced physics to calculate the actual direction that satellite signals are beaming down from. This is critical for distinguishing the desired signals travelling directly from the satellites in the unwanted reflections that bounce around between buildings. The only other way to do this is with a $5k (approx £3.59K) military-grade antenna system that is bigger than a dinner plate.
The team and the story
Almost every notable startup has an interesting origin story and the same is true for FocalPoint. Before founding FocalPoint, Faragher designed positioning systems for the likes of Nuclear Submarines and the Mars Rover. FocalPoint’s founder Faragher was also once named the “Real Life Q” by Top Gear. The article convinced a certain bank manager to give Ramsey his first mortgage based on this evidence that he was “highly employable”.
The company currently operates out of Cambridge and Bristol, with its team originating from Cambridge University’s Experimental and Theoretical Physics department, BAE Systems and the European Space Agency. The team currently consists of 22 people; a mix of technical engineers. They recently filled its C suite team with the hiring of Noel McKenna as their new CCO. Currently, the startup is looking for a VP of Product and Head of Standards. The latest funding will also be used to grow the company’s team in a variety of areas.