Hilliard, Ohio- Ubihere, a Hilliard, Ohio based company, has developed Ubitrax and Ubivision, next-generation artificially intelligent (AI) tagging and video navigation systems, respectively. The technology was developed at The Ohio State University by Dr. Alper Yilmaz, founder and chief technology officer at Ubihere. Ubihere has won multiple Phase I and Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards for both its technologies. APEX provided free STTR proposal navigation services to Ubihere.
APEX is a Department of the Air Force partnership intermediary program and is funded by the Department of the Air Force to provide free process-navigation services, such as team matchmaking and proposal consulting, to small businesses and academic researchers with technologies and/or scientific capabilities that have the potential to advance U.S. national security interests.
Dr. Yilmaz’s research at Ohio State focused on geospatial informatics and how objects and people interact in three-dimensional space. The research team at Ohio State had various awards from National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Energy, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to develop a cutting-edge geospatial-tracking technology. Ohio State patented the method of developing the technology in an efficient manner, and Ubihere licensed that patent from Ohio State.
“A lot of the technology patented by Ohio State was from ‘Return to the Moon’ and ‘Mission to Mars’ programs where there was a need to determine position and navigation capabilities in absence of GPS or other stimulus for location,” said Eric Wagner, executive vice president of government programs at Ubihere. “That's the technology we licensed out of Ohio State. Based on that, we created two suites of products consisting of similar AI technology.”
The biggest advantages that Ubihere tracking, and navigation technology has over existing technologies is not only its limited infrastructure need but also its artificial intelligence that runs behind it, allowing it to learn its environment on the go and give more accurate information about its location.
Ubitrax – what it is and how it works
Ubihere’s first product is Ubitrax, a multi-sensor multi-modal (meaning it will be built in different ways) artificially intelligent field tracking tag solution. There are low-end track solutions like Bluetooth technology that can make a device beep when one goes too far away from it. On the other hand, the high-end tags are self-aware and don’t need any infrastructure. They self-determine their position as they move and are truly artificially intelligent tracking tags.
“The primary applications, we see for that are real-time location tracking systems and logistics systems inside very complex operational environments like hospital systems. Knowing where the patients are, where they're moving through the hospital system, where the mobile high-end medical appliances are at any given time increases process efficiency as well as asset and inventory management,” said Wagner.
Upon interaction with potential customers, the Ubihere team found that there are significant shortcomings with the existing tracking technology. This encouraged further development of Ubihere’s breakthrough tracking system.
During their market research and product development process, Ubihere also found that the Department of Defense (DoD) needed an advanced tracking system for multiple areas. Working on this area of need led Ubihere to applying for and winning an $875,000 Phase II SBIR contract in October of 2020. This funding enabled Ubihere to complete majority of the work to finish building their solution without having to pursue any capital equity for the company.
“It's 875 tags tracking all of aerospace ground equipment as they interact with the bombers providing them real-time updates in a secure manner, giving them reports on which equipment was used on which bombers, improving their operational performance and helping them find their assets quicker and do automatic reporting,” said Wagner.
The Ubitrax project is now being targeted for a Phase III SBIR purchase contract for $600,000 to outfit these two other bases with the system. One of the projects, for which Ubihere was recently awarded a Phase II, was to modify that solution for vehicle tracking as well.
Ubivision – what it is and how it works
The second Ubihere product is Ubivision, a compact, artificially intelligent camera system which provides real-time video processing and analysis capability that will be a breakthrough for indoor navigation. A major advantage that Ubivision has is that it is a very effective, low-cost camera system that finds and identifies whatever it has been trained to look for and does real-time video processing rather than radio frequency tags. The military has asked Ubihere to develop this solution into a real-time inventory control system for the Army via a direct to Phase II SBIR awarded in October 2021 in the amount of $1.6mm.
“For example, it can be placed somewhere in a depot and it will accurately track all the assets, as they move in and out the depot, put them in automatic logs, and then put them into the logistics systems,” said Wagner.
Ubivision has also generated a lot of interest in the U.S. Air Force due to the solution’s ability to track and process location in real time without reliance on Global Position System and radio frequency. The company was awarded an Air Force Phase II STTR awarded in September 2021 in the amount of $750,000 to support vision-based autonomous navigation.
“The reason why the U.S. Air Force and the DoD, at large, really like this is because, if we go to war, the first thing the enemy will target is the GPS, so everybody will go back to doing maps and logistics by paper. In that scenario, the ability to do alternative position navigation will be very useful, and the ability to do it visually and in real time is something that the U.S. Air Force is very excited about,” said Wagner.
Commercial application of Ubivision is most promising for detailed indoor navigation using visual systems which has led to a lot of autonomy companies being very interested in this technology. Navigation systems relying on RF tags face problems like multi-path signals and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) interference. The idea of navigating visually on the device itself in real time is exciting because it eliminates problems like multi-path and LiDAR interferences as well as the issue of identification of what exactly is the obstacle blocking the path.
APEX helped Ubihere with their successful SBIR/STTR proposals
APEX’s presentations and information sessions helped Ubihere understand the security requirements and different financial buildups during the application process.
“The primary advantage of APEX is that they provide these big global informational sessions. The one-on-one aspect of it addresses unique problems with contracting, proposal development, or commercialization strategy that companies face during the application process. Having access to APEX consultants who are experienced in the field and understand all of the nuances of contracting is very beneficial,” said Wagner.
Ubihere’s next steps and goals
Ubihere’s next goal is to take its tracking and navigation solutions and turn them into commercially viable products. They are in the process of putting together the commercial contract vehicle to sell their products directly to the DoD and getting their tracking tags Federal Communications Commission certified. Ubihere expects to launch the Ubitrax system in the beginning of 2022 and its Ubivision system in the latter half of 2022.
About Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX)
APEX cultivates innovation by expanding the American research enterprise for the Department of the Air Force by engaging, connecting, and enabling innovators across academia, industry, and the Department of Defense. APEX utilizes data analytics to identify transformational operational defense solutions in academia, industry, and government sectors; provides process navigation services for academic teams and small businesses; and enhances cross-sector engagement by providing direct connections to the technology needs of multiple Department of Defense programs.
Ubihere is a Hilliard, Ohio based company that builds tracking solutions, positioning technologies and analytics to map an environment in real time. Since its founding, Ubihere has attracted a team of highly experienced entrepreneurs, engineering, and experts committed to developing tracking solutions. The company is supported by dedicated partners such as Rev1 Ventures and the state of Ohio.