Innovation in Focus
If you’ve ever watched crime footage from a surveillance camera, you’ve probably wondered how the police were ever able to identify or convict the perpetrators based on the grainy images most surveillance cameras produce.
A new camera lens and chip technology developed by University of New Brunswick start-up company, SceneSharp hopes to change that situation by delivering sharp, colour images that will provide fast, accurate intelligence for the security industry. So promising is SceneSharp’s’ technology that they recently won the confidence and investment of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) in the form of a prestigious first place 2011 Breakthru award.
Developed by University of New Brunswick (UNB) professor and Canada Research Chair in Advanced Geomatics Image Processing, Dr. Yun Zhang, the UNB PanSharp technology was originally intended for use in satellites and has been licensed by UNB for use by companies around the world, including Google Maps. UNB PanSharp software enhances satellite images, often taken 500 kilometres in the air while traveling at very high speeds, by combining a low-resolution colour image with a high-resolution black and white image. The result is a crisp, clear colour photo that is three times sharper than traditional satellite imaging. Now SceneSharp wants to bring this far out technology down to earth to a camera near you.
“The challenge with current security cameras is that they deliver poor quality images, it’s difficult to identify what’s happening in the image, especially in low light conditions, and the footage can consume huge amount of data storage space,” says Dr. Zhang. “SceneSharp’s camera lens and chip technology solves those problems, providing the security industry with a new level of efficiency and effectiveness.”
Not only does the SceneSharp software automatically detect motion, identify the 3D location, shape and size of the moving object and then transmits a high quality image, it does it all with a 50% reduction in data size. The additional advantage of the SceneSharp system is that it can be fully automated, providing unmanned surveillance that can be of real value for military, commercial or consumer applications.
Chris Mathis of UNB’s Office of Research Services (ORS) and member of Springboard Atlantic recognized that Dr. Zhang had a marketable product but needed business analysis to help fully develop it commercially. He introduced Dr. Zhang’s innovation to students of UNB’s Activator program, which brings business and engineering students from the Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program together to develop business concepts. There it caught the interest of UNB business students Jordan deWinter and Pablo Alvarez who partnered with Dr. Zhang and, with assistance from ORS’ Chris Mathis and Shane Nason, established a spin-off company concept, SceneSharp.
With guidance from Mathis, Dr. Zhang was granted an award through Springboard’s Proof of Concept fund, allowing him to further test and develop his technology. The company also received money from Springboard’s Technology Assessment Committee (TAC) to fund a third-party in-depth assessment on SceneSharp’s market potential, which will eventually help refine and direct their business plan.
The recent win of the 2011 Breakthru award is a huge boost to the company’s confidence and momentum. As the largest prize of its kind in Canada, SceneSharp will not only benefit from venture capital investment, they’ll also have access to entrepreneurial experts in the areas of finance, marketing and law as they perfect their product, source manufacturing partners and grow their customer base.
SceneSharp is now focused on bringing in an experienced management team, formalizing the corporate structure and negotiating the venture deal with NBIF. These next steps will be critical to establishing a company with good growth potential and responsiveness to market demands and the ORS team will be there to provide strong support to SceneSharp.
“The combination of SceneSharp’s innovative technology with the backing of supporters like Breakthru and Springboard foreshadows a viable future for this company,” says Mathis. “We’re excited about their potential and look forward to continuing our role as a partner on their road to commercialization.”