In April 1998, Dr. Alex Nairac and Brendan Watts, two Oxford University graduates who shared a passion for technology, identified a gap in the market for land-based inertial navigation systems. INS were traditionally expensive, bulky and complex to use, and as a result almost exclusively used in airborne or seaborne applications. Alex and Brendan spotted an opportunity for the development of clever, cost-effective, compact solutions in automotive applications. And so, Oxford Technical Solutions was founded. The drive to support customers in need of data they can trust, to enable them to navigate everywhere, has remained with OxTS employees as strongly today as it was in the being. Now we are proud to deliver precise navigation solutions across a wide – and growing – range of applications. Here, Joseph Hallett, OxTS Application Engineer, tells us about a ‘day in his life’:
1. How long have you worked at OxTS, and what led you to this career?
I have been working at OxTS since October 2021 and before working here, I was studying robotics at the University of Essex where I developed a great interest in mobile robotics and intelligent systems. I discovered that the types of problems that OxTS deals with, in providing navigational solutions to a diverse set of use cases, are very similar to the key problems faced in modern mobile robotics. I saw my role at OxTS as an opportunity to further my interests in this field, contribute to tackling these problems and apply solutions to real world applications.
2. What does a typical ‘day in your life’ as OxTS’ Application Engineer involve?
As an application Engineer, I have the opportunity to work on a large variety of projects with various different technologies so you can imagine I don’t really have a ‘typical’ working day. Some days I’ll be designing, 3D printing and building hardware for prototypes like the handheld LiDAR navigation device, the Poyzx indoor positioning system, working on a wheeled robot platform, and other projects that I can’t share too much information about just yet as they are still confidential. Other days involve researching and evaluating different new technologies to expand and improve our capabilities as a navigation engineering company.
3. What’s the most satisfying thing about your job, and why?
There is something very satisfying about creating a functioning prototype in a reasonably short amount of time, from your own ideas – such as the LiDAR SLAM handheld device I recently made. After spending a few weeks working on building a physical device, creating power cables, setting up and refining the software, seeing the system navigate using LiDAR inertial SLAM around the office without GNSS is just great. The project gained interest and won praise when I demonstrated it to attendees of the Robotics and Automation exhibition last month, where we walked a quick lap of the room to 3D-map the exhibition space. Rapid development in projects like this can be challenging but the rewards you get out of them are amazing. It is in these types of projects that an engineer can learn and develop new skills whilst exploring their applications.
4. What’s the most challenging project you’ve tackled for OxTS, and how did you handle it?
Each project is challenging in their own way, it keeps things exciting. I would say that any project that deals with sensor fusion normally poses the biggest challenges. Projects that involve LiDAR SLAM aiding or ultra-wideband (UWB) aiding can be challenging as you need to effectively combine different navigational sources into one, robust and trustworthy, pose estimation. Here at OxTS, I have learned – and I am continuing to learn – effective strategies to model various sensors and systems in order to achieve optimal sensor fusion. This supports our mission to help our customers to navigate everywhere, with confidence.
5. What do you enjoy most about being part of the OxTS team?
Just being around a diverse bunch of engineers, regularly, you find yourself having engaging conversations with OxTS team members about their projects or interesting technology. It keeps you thinking about new ideas and excited on what future projects can come out of these conversations. Speaking for myself, as an engineer starting their career, its great to be part of a supportive and approachable team of engineers that is willing to help you when you need it.
6. What would we most likely find you doing at the weekend?
I’m a maker at heart so even at the weekends I’m building or making something, but normally something a bit more artistic in nature. One of my favourite hobbies is costume and prop making, and over the years I’ve made various pieces from film, TV and video games. A few of my creations have even appeared in theatre productions and in YouTube videos. It’s a fun, nerdy hobby that I find relaxing after a work week.
7. The New Year has just arrived! What are you most looking forward to over the next twelve months at OxTS?
New year means new projects! I’m looking forward to working with new technologies, specifically camera-based technology, and applying them to our autonomy proposition. It’s going to be very interesting to see how generic aiding can be used to marry all these prototypes and sensors on a single platform, I think it will open the doors to limitless navigational potential and ideas.
- Learn more about OxTS indoor positioning solutions with UWB.
- Get in touch to discuss how OxTS solutions can support you with your latest project.
- See how we can help you navigate the path to autonomy.
- What is ROS? Read our article on robot operating systems.
- Explore survey and mapping applications.
- Discover our automotive system applications.