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Cedes and CSEM win EU innovation award

Peter Seitz (left) and Beat DeCoi win a top European information technology prize. Cordis

A research team from the Swiss company, Cedes AG, and the Swiss centre for electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) have won the top prize for innovation at the European Information Society Technology awards.

This content was published on October 6, 2003 - 14:34

The team earned recognition for a tiny device that can capture three-dimensional (3D) images in real time without requiring a separate computer for image processing.

Cedes is planning on incorporating the camera in new sensor systems for elevator manufacturers, a market it knows well as it has been selling infra-red sensors to Swiss and foreign manufacturers, since its founding in 1986.

The new cameras help to solve the problem associated with an elevator stopping to pick up passengers when it is already full.

The 3D camera can detect things that existing 2D technology and weight sensors cannot.

An elevator full of luggage or cleaning equipment will not be heavy enough to tell the weight sensors the elevator is “full” and a 2D system will record only one “person” getting on the elevator. It cannot tell that the one person is pushing a huge cart full of equipment.

The failure of these two sensor mechanisms to accurately get the picture means the lift will still stop at every floor it has been called to, despite there being no more room to stand.

Other applications

The Cedes application, ESPROS, is only one way the camera can overcome everyday annoyances. Its inventor, Peter Seitz sees a much wider range of applications, including safety improving transportation and heavy engineering applications.

It can provide drivers and machine operators with an accurate picture of their surrounding environment in three dimensions. The technology is available for licensing to other manufacturers.

ESPROS is described as tiny and discrete, able to take 30 high-resolution images per second.

Cedes worked closely with the CSEM researchers who have been developing the technology over the past ten years.

During that time, some SFr3 million ($2.25 million) in funding for the research came from the Swiss government through its priority research programs and its funding of basic research at the CSEM. Leica Geosystems also participated in some of the research.

Cedes is a mid-sized firm (turnover of SFr25 million in 2002) that spends a good portion of its revenues on R&D, some 20 percent.

Groundbreaking and innovative

The Information Society Technologies prize has been awarded since 1995, given to “groundbreaking products” that represent the “best of European innovation in information technology”. The top three winners receive €200,000 (SFr310,000) each.

The awards have been handed out since 1995. While they recognize “groundbreaking” products that represent “the best of European innovation” in information technology, they are not necessarily a guarantee of business success.

Past winners from Switzerland, such as ELCA, Fast Multimedia, XITACT, and Dartfish (formerly Inmotion), are all still in business, some performing better than others, but 2C3D, a 2002 winner, went out of business a few short months after winning its IST prize.

by Valerie Thompson

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