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Electromagnetic Lenses for Millimeter-Wave Sensors

Written by Anju Kakkar

Researchers at Humber’s Research & Innovation, funded by NSERC Engage Grant and co-sponsored by eleven-x Inc. as the industry partner, aimed at increasing the directivity of mm-wave sensors to avoid false object detections and potentially lower the power consumption.

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Humber Research has continued to provide valuable contributions to partner organizations throughout the pandemic. Mutually beneficial partnerships offer industry partners access to the knowledge, expertise, and capabilities at Humber College while providing Humber College an opportunity to stay at the forefront of the industry’s technological developments and engage its students in real-life industry projects.

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Industry Partner

eleven-x is a Canadian technology company developing complete IoT solutions that provide secure, real-time data analytics to enable fast and reliable decisions. eleven-x offers full-stack DNA (device, network, application software) solutions with its LoRaWANTM platform and wireless interface units. eleven-x is constantly expanding its capabilities by incorporating highly efficient and accurate next-generation sensors into its products. Mm-wave sensors are of particular interest as they offer unique properties for IoT applications.

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Challenge

Recent advances in mm-wave sensors made this technology an attractive choice for low-powered IoT devices. However, IoT applications vary widely; some use cases require a narrow and focused detection range, while others need a wide coverage angle.

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The challenge in this project was to design electromagnetic lenses from inexpensive materials so that the sensors could achieve highly directive radiation patterns when needed for a more focused operational coverage while at the same time being easily integrated into the manufacturing process. Our research focused on identifying the suitable lens geometries and simplifying the design process for our industry partner. Humber’s research team designed, fabricated and tested several lens prototypes using different materials, demonstrating significant improvements in sensor directivity.

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“5G and LoRaWAN co-exist to serve the Internet of Things”, explains Ryan Hickey, COO, eleven-x. Inc. “From my experience, the customer wants a solution that works and meets their budget.”

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Humber Research & Innovation was successful in earning the NSERC Engage Grant

Research findings indicated that the half power beam width (HPBW) of the mm-wave sensors could be reduced significantly while increasing the directivity almost ten-fold by using small, inexpensive electromagnetic lenses that are easy to manufacture and integrate. Researchers designed, fabricated and tested various lens prototypes with different materials, sizes and geometries. Comparing the test results revealed very interesting trade-offs with respect to overall directivity and HPBW, as well as other important considerations such as the size of the lens, propagation delays and the side lobes. Humber research team also provided key recommendations to simplify the design process of electromagnetic lenses and to minimize error in volume productions.

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Four Stages of the Project led by the Humber Research Team:

1. Literature review and preparation. Humber research team procured sensor evaluation kits to familiarize with the sensor test setup using the Raspberry Pi platform.

2. Design and fabrication of multiple lens prototypes using different materials and shapes.

3. Extensive testing and evaluation of prototypes; characterizing the sensor without lenses to establish a benchmark.

4. Analyzing results and reporting findings in conjunction with the practical aspects such as cost, lead times and costs; recommendation to choose a type of lens considering all trade-offs.

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Dr. Ginger Grant, Ph.D., Humber’s Dean of Research & Innovation, states,
“We need an open mind towards doing things differently,
because that’s how we are going to adapt.”

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The Project Leads…

The Humber research lead was Prof. Faruk Erkmen, Ph.D. P. Eng., MBA, PMP, Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology (FAST) as the Principle investigator, assisted by Prof. Muhammad Khan, Ph.D.  Dr. Erkmen specializes in antennas and electromagnetics and has published several featured journal articles and conference papers. He also has an MBA with a focus on technology management, is a licensed Professional Engineer, and a certified Project Management Professional. He provided the scientific leadership as well as the project management function. Dr. Khan specializes in experiential learning for students inside classroom and hands-on learning during laboratory experiments, developing new programs and engaging organizations and industry to improve quality of the programs.

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Founded in 2014, eleven-x was the first network operator in Canada with a purpose-built IoT network available for public access. Lead by a team of world-class authorities with extensive knowledge of wireless technology and a passion for helping organizations leverage the IoT evolution. eleven-x is also an entrepreneurial success story which was selected among Canada’s Top 20 Innovative Technology Companies. Ryan Hickey, COO, was the main point of contact at eleven-x Inc.

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Dr. Farzad Rayegani, Ph.D., P. Eng., Senior Dean of Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology and Dr. Jonathan Kim, Ph.D., P. Eng., Associate Dean of Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology, provided support and mentorship. Neal Mohammed, Director of Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation, provided operational guidance. Dr. Ginger Grant, Ph.D., Dean of Research & Innovation,  provided support and was responsible for the operational and financial administration of the grant.

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Student Gains:

  • Two students acquired excellent learning opportunities in multiple areas such as IT, wireless communications, mm-wave sensors, Raspberry Pi platforms, prototyping, fabricating, testing and analyzing technical results.
  • Opportunity to work on a real-life problem defined by an innovative, high-tech private sector partner while gaining knowledge and developing hands-on skills.

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Potential for Impact…

The results of this project will be used in eleven-x’s new product development process. Our findings and recommendations will help eleven-x develop a superior product in terms of accuracy, reliability and low power consumption, potentially giving them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

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In addition to its immediate benefits to eleven-x’s new products, this project will develop a new, long-term collaboration between a highly innovative Canadian technology company and Humber College. Overall, the relationship is expected to benefit Canada by contributing to a stronger technological ecosystem that fosters innovation and creates high-tech employment opportunities.

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I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is
you fund research, and you learn the basic facts. – Bill Gates

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The success of research projects is an outcome we are enthusiastic about sharing with our audience. Expect regular updates from us highlighting breakthroughs through research and innovation.

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In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What are some of the projects you are leading? What’s in the pipeline for your organization? Leave a comment on our social channels.

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To get involved, visit:https://www.humber.ca/research/get-involved/