When Radars Go Digital: Ask Me Anything with Youssef Arhror

How is the shift to digital radar a shift similar to the one from mobile phones to smartphones?

It just makes the form factor much smaller as well as the sampling rate. Here’s another analogy that might help. So you can play music in your car via FM radio. But you can do the same thing with Wi Fi now. But with Wi Fi, you have everything else you can do. You can communicate, you can have multiple devices connected at the same time and there is no interference. Lots of people can be in your house and connected to Wi Fi. It’s the same principle. They’re both radios, but you can only listen to music with it, versus with Wi Fi, you can do everything else.

What are some practical applications you’re looking to solve with digital radar?

All the radars in the world blind each other. So with a Mercedes or a Tesla car, they always have one out in front and they don’t have one in the back, because they’re going to blind the car behind them. With digital radars you can have as many as you have around you with no interference. It also improves on range which allows for a crisper sound. 

There are also medical applications like heart rate monitoring and breathing rate monitoring. What’s more is that it requires less battery consumption. We also do full detection. For example, if you detect somebody’s going to fall, for the elderly that’s very important. With the digital radar, you can actually detect if somebody’s going to fall before they hit the ground.

One of the other things about digital is that we’re agnostic about frequency. So most of the radars have specific frequencies, but with a digital radar you can have the radar at any frequency. So for example, we have radars at working at a high frequency at 60 gigahertz. It’s considered a junk band in the United States. They use it for satellite to satellite communication. So you can repurpose all the radio waves you already have in space and satellites for communication. 

What types of companies are most interested in utilizing digital radar?

Elon Musk says that he only will use digital radar and he will steer away from anything that’s vision related. His new cars have radars all around it. 

Mostly our clients use them in drones for collision avoidance and for mining inside caves where there’s no light. We’re also seeing a big shift in views on privacy where nobody wants a camera at home so you have everything that the camera can do without anybody watching you. And because the form factor is so small and the accuracy is so high, it’s going to enable the drone industry to go to the next level for collision avoidance and be able to cater to the masses.

What do you build and when do you buy?

We buy anything we can find. That’s one hundred percent. If anything is out there in the market that is available and we can use it, we will buy it. No two ways about it. But in our field, since everything is new for us, we don’t always have the luxury of that. So we tend to build a lot of things ourselves. But if we can use anything off the shelf we can find, like we use Amazon servers for our machine learning, it’s going to make it easier for us. We actually go for it because time is of the essence. The important thing here is to innovate and move forward. 

What are some of the major roadblocks you think that you might have 2020?

In our specific field, 5G is a big roadblock because we don’t have a lot of innovation in it and it’s where the world is going. So we’re seeing that we cannot import Huawei or anything that’s not American for now for those 5G chips. So that’s actually hurting because we don’t have our hands on chips to test on and start working and prototyping on them right now whereas the whole world is already on it.

All the chips are now up to speed. What the Chinese are doing is just unbelievable. Like the chips they have, we want to get our hands on those and use them instead of working with something that’s half working and not the same specs. You’re already behind at that point.

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