Face masks, fins, and scuba tanks are essential equipment for divers these days. Swiss start-up XIOS hopes that its new wrist-worn navigation devices will become the next basic piece of gear.
Two-year-old, XIOS SA, has successfully adapted and miniaturised sophisticated military sonar technology normally used in submarines for use by deep sea divers.
Worn on the wrist, the system helps divers locate their position below the waves.
After spending much of his career making systems for the British and French navies for his employer Thomson Marconi Sonar Limited, XIOS chief technology officer Thierry Brizard decided to commercialise the technology for recreational and professional divers.
He calls it the EyeSea Sonar Diving Navigation System.
The consumer-oriented technology was originally developed in a European Union-funded projected, according to Edwin Douglass, a member of the XIOS board and spokesman for the company.
Standard navigational systems such as satellite-based global positioning systems do not work underwater.
Divers wear a receiver or a receiver/transmitter system on their wrist that is equipped with a liquid crystal display (LCD).
It communicates via sonar with the home ship or with targets underwater that contain the transmitters.
At a cost of around €900 (SFr1,312), these diving accessories are for wealthy hobbyists or professionals only.
Tapping local know-how
Today the transmitter/receiver package runs on normal batteries. But the company will find many potential suppliers in the Neuchâtel region of Switzerland of low-power integrated circuit systems that run on watch batteries which would be an improvement over the 12 AAA batteries that the system needs today.
When Swiss Venture asked if the local low-power IC know-how was a decision factor in locating in canton Neuchâtel, Douglass would name no names.
However, he did say that the company chose the Swiss location because of the skills in the region and the reputation for high quality work at the micro-scale.
The company is not disclosing revenue figures publicly; nor does it give any sales figures. It is located in Cortaillod and employs seven people with plans to grow to 12 this coming year.
According to the spokesperson, private investors provided the early stage funding required by XIOS.
Two-year microtechnology firm adapts military technology for consumers.
The diving navigation system taps niche market.
The device could be improved by tapping Neuchâtel's high-tech hub.