Chris Lawford has been with OxTS since October 2017. He joined as an applications engineer working for the Application Engineering department, which at the time was a relatively recent development within the company.
In the intervening years Application Engineering has established itself as an engine room of innovation within OxTS. In that time it has tripled in size and split into two teams – one working on customer projects and the other on internal developments. Here, Chris explains how and why Application Engineering came into being, and he gives some insight into what it does.
Pushing the boundaries
In order to do this as efficiently and effectively as possible, having access to a pre-programmed, high resolution, 3D map of its surroundings is ideal. In effect, it cross-references what its real-time sensors can ‘see’ with what it already expects to find. This reduces the need for complex real-time analysis of the infrastructure-based surroundings which, without the 3D map, would otherwise be an entirely alien and unfamiliar environment.
“Application Engineering was set up to work on customer-based projects that were slightly outside the typical use case for our products,” says Chris. “We also work on internal developments that require either a rapid response or expertise in something that isn’t in the core nature of the business.
“It’s really about us pushing the boundaries of new technologies and new possibilities, and doing that through those projects.
“Before the team existed it could take us a long time to respond when a customer requested something, be it new skills, new plug-ins or new product developments. We really wanted to get a strong link between the engineers working on a problem and the customer at heart, so that’s where Application Engineering came in: to offer a level above what the support team could offer in terms of development capabilities.
“The knock-on effect is that the best projects not only benefit the customer but also the business as a whole. Sometimes a project is so good that we’ll then roll it out to other people as well.”
There’s an inevitable screen of confidentiality protecting many of Application Engineering’s customer projects. Some, however, can be spoken about more freely, such as AB Dynamics’ LaunchPad, which incorporates an xOEM INS boardset into a small robotic platform for the vulnerable road user (VRU) targets used in advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) tests.
“As we all know, the ADAS tests are getting more complex by the day,” says Chris. “AB Dynamics recognised that they could do a smaller device for moving pedestrian targets, so we built upon technology developed in previous custom projects to help create this new platform. The teams worked really closely together and it allowed us to give the level of service AB Dynamics required.”
An internal focus
Application Engineering also works on developments within the company. These have included an investigation into reducing set up time for OxTS’ INS products, and from that a number of projects appeared.
“One finding was that we needed to give customers a more instructive way of warming up their device to get the best performance from it,” says Chris. “Working with some of our very big partners, we went through a multitude of developments to create the NAVassist warm-up tool, which helps to offer the best level of accuracy that our systems can provide.
Simple and effective
“The results are clear: even internally we’ve seen improvements training our own people, and we’ve seen an improved understanding of how the system works and what is required.
“During that same investigation we recognised the need for our products to work with any car no matter what. It’s not only ADAS tests that are changing but also the cars themselves and the materials they are made from. For example, we can’t put magnetic antennas on a carbonfibre roof, so the need was identified for a method to attach any of the antennas we sell to any car present or future, and to minimise the number of measurements that have to be taken when doing it. From that we created the new dual antenna roof mount system, which is about to be launched. With this device you can assemble it, attach it to the roof and you’re done.
“For us it’s about ensuring that things are simple and effective, which is really the essence of what we’re trying to encompass here.”
Chris Lawford with new antenna roof mount development.
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