Sometimes there is more than what meets the eye.
For RTP-based startup SWIR Vision Systems, this couldn’t be more true. The company has commercialized a breakthrough image sensor technology that delivers infrared imaging cameras with full HD resolution. Infrared cameras can “see” objects at wavelengths that are beyond the visible light spectrum and so are particularly useful in the dark or when clear vision is otherwise impaired.
The applications of this increased sight are nearly endless, as the industrial machine, security and agricultural industries all have major needs for this type of camera. You can see some of the startup’s solutions for yourself when it presents at CED’s virtual Venture Connect summit (March 23-25).
CEO George Wildeman spent years at the New York-based optics technology company Corning Incorporated before coming down to North Carolina. Here, he was introduced to RTP-based RTI International, which had been working on an infrared sensor for years.
“I immediately recognized that it was what I call a keystone component,” Wildeman said. “A keystone component is a technology that can become a critical piece to a larger system.”
With years of grant funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), RTI was well-equipped to spin out SWIR Vision Systems as a startup in 2018.
SWIR Vision Systems’ technology converts visible sensors into infrared sensors. This is valuable because infrared sensors are used in mobile phones, cars (especially autonomous vehicles) and industrial cameras to perform many jobs that traditional visual sensors cannot, Wildeman said.
While there are many industry market opportunities, Wildeman said SWIR Vision Systems is first targeting the industrial machine vision and automation market, having developed their sensors and cameras to sell to companies with high-volume production lines typical for mobile phones and semiconductor chips that the startup’s infrared sensors are especially effective in monitoring.
“What sets our technology apart is that we are the only ones that can make them with very high resolution,” Wildeman said. “We bring the megapixels in the infrared, so we’ve got the highest-resolution infrared sensors in the world.”
After completing seed financing rounds with RTI as its initial investor, SWIR Vision Systems is actively engaged with potential investors with the goal of raising a Series A. Now that SWIR has commercialized the technology and established a product-market fit, Wildeman said the startup is ready to grow the business and operations, requiring capital for their sales and marketing team all in the goal of making processes more efficient for clients.
“They can improve the process of their production lines and also speed up their production lines,” Wildeman said, “so they can double the throughput speed of their production lines.”
In this industrial space, clients can see more defects. Mobile phone companies are also moving toward facial and object recognition over longer distances or in bright sunlight. With SWIR Vision Systems, this is more possible.
The global autonomous vehicle industry is also using the startup’s technology so that its cars can “see” through fog or smoke.
Since 2018, SWIR Vision System has sold its products to some of the largest companies in the world across 15 countries, Wildeman said.
Naturally when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the startup worried about how business would be affected.
“The first half of last year was a little bit concerning, like for most small and large businesses,” Wildeman said. “We were concerned about what was going to happen.”
But growth has not been impacted. In fact, SWIR Vision Systems has had six straight quarters of growth even through Covid-19.
When SWIR Vision Systems presents at this year’s virtual Venture Connect in March, they are looking to begin dialogue with angels and VC investors.