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PARC Spins Off Wireless Smart Beam Antenna Company Metawave

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【Summary】PARC announced it is spinning off Metawave Corporation a breakthrough wireless technology start-up, which builds technology solutions based on engineered metamaterials and Artificial Intelligence Metawave will commercialize smart beam-steering antenna systems for autonomous vehicles and 5G markets.

Original Eric Walz    Aug 15, 2017 5:58 PM PT
PARC Spins Off Wireless Smart Beam Antenna Company Metawave

Palo Alto, CA — PARC, a Xerox company, announced it is spinning off Metawave Corporation a breakthrough wireless technology start-up, which builds technology solutions based on engineered metamaterials and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Metawave will commercialize smart beam-steering antenna systems for autonomous vehicles and 5G markets.

Metawave was incubated at PARC, and the company secured significant, undisclosed initial seed funding from leading investors in Silicon Valley and New York.

Dr. Maha Achour, Metawave's CEO and Dr. Bernard Casse, CTO founded the company with the vision of disrupting the status quo in wireless technology, by merging adaptive metamaterials and AI in order to reach performance and safety levels currently unattainable with today's technologies.

"This spinoff embodies PARC's unparalleled commitment to the startup community, and its role in the development and extension of PARC's world-class innovation ecosystem," said Dr. Achour.

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Dr. Achour has 20 years leadership experience in RF, wireless, metamaterial structures, optics, and networking industries in commercial and defense sectors. While Dr. Casse brings ten years of experience commercializing fundamental science, and has pioneered the innovative beam-steering technology with his former PARC metamaterials applied research team.

Automotive Radar Development

Today, the automotive radars used in self-driving cars are somewhat limited, in that they cannot discriminate objects, do not work well at long ranges, and have relatively slow processing speeds.

"Radar is basically the key sensor of the car in the long-range field of view," Achour says. "If you cannot see at 250 meters clearly over a wide field of view, you cannot drive very fast."

Combining ultra-fast beam-steering/scanning of a pencil beam with intelligent algorithms enables unprecedented capabilities like 3D imaging, identification and classification of objects, non-line-of-sight object detection, and accident anticipation by analyzing traffic patterns, with smart functionality in all-weather conditions. These capabilities represent the future of automotive radar, which will make self-driving cars a reality.

"Metawave is fundamentally changing the way the automotive industry thinks about radars. We are on a mission to build highly intelligent and high-performing automotive radars capable of true 3D vision, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication."

Building on intellectual property developed at PARC, Metawave is also working with leading automotive companies to advance its Metamaterial Frequency-Adaptive Steering Technology (M-FAST) platform to lead the industry's transformation.

5G Communication for Autonomous Driving

Metawave will also work with global telecommunications infrastructure vendors and service providers to accelerate 5G deployments. The use of M-FAST in cellular networks will yield intelligent radio interfaces, enabling networks to support a massive number of devices that demand more bandwidth, all at a reasonable cost.

"Working with distinguished PARC researchers, Metawave is poised to provide one of the missing pieces to the autonomous driving safety puzzle, while answering the need for resilient, faster and affordable 4G and 5G networks," said PARC's CEO Dr. Tolga Kurtoglu.

PARC has successfully incubated a variety of startups over the past 40 years to deliver breakthrough technology research and bring products to market. PARC's work with external startups and internally incubated organizations goes beyond the boundaries of traditional entrepreneur-in-residence programs, which typically import industry experts to develop pre-defined commercial opportunities.

PARC instead creates a customized partnership for each venture, which could include technical expertise, intellectual property, facilities resources, lab space, available research, and more. In exchange, PARC receives cash, royalties, equity, license fees, or a combination. More than 30 companies have gone to market via PARC, including PowerCloud Systems, Meshin, SolFocus, Powerset, and others.

V2V Communication

In addition to sensing, Metawave sees applications in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications that would be part of a future of autonomous vehicles at a large scale.

Metawave would compete most directly with metamaterials radar maker Echodyne, which is building technology for autonomous vehicles including drones and cars, and Pivotal Commware, which emerged earlier this summer to sell another version of the technology to the wireless communications industry, particularly as it eyes the transition to 5G networks.

Achour declined to provide much detail on her company's technology and the intellectual property underlying it, citing the competitive landscape. "All that I can say is our solution is fundamentally different from what has been filed many, many years ago," she says.

Metawave co-founder and CTO Bernard Casse said in an interview that Metawave uses "an all-electronic architecture." "We believe it's faster, it's less computationally intensive, and it's more amenable to mass production," he adds.

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Metawave and AI

Metawave is not just making metamaterials antennas. It is building a full radar package that it hopes to supply directly to car makers as they strive for fully autonomous vehicles.

"This is where the AI plays a big role," Achour says, adding that Metawave is in discussions with a wide array of automotive industry partners.

Casse says Metawave is leveraging the rapid rate of progress in A.I. technologies to develop a series of algorithms for optimization, range-finding, and more. "What we want in the end… is a radar that's smart, that can tell you there's a child in your parking zone, that can discriminate between an SUV and a sedan, that can anticipate an accident by taking a look at traffic patterns," he said.

Metawave currently has a small team of employees, including part-time and contract employees, but Achour says she's hiring rapidly, drawing from her deep professional network. "The [radio frequency] space is a very close community, and we all respect each other and value the innovation of each other," she says, adding: "In the end, you attract them when you have a track record and you have credibility in this market."

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