Entrepreneurship is rarely predictable or formulaic, but the initial concept for a business typically comes about in a similar fashion: founders identify a problem or inefficiency and decide to develop a solution. Identifying the problem first affords entrepreneurs the opportunity to assess the market’s interest or need for a solution before they invest time and money. But GhostWave, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, is not your typical company. The Ohio State University spin out developed innovative radar technology before ever knowing they’d use it to make noise in the auto industry.
The company’s radar technology leverages radio frequency (RF) noise unlike traditional radar systems employed by cars. In general, radar sends out a signal that hits an object and bounces back to relay information like speed, distance and direction. In many cars, this is employed in the rear of the vehicle to alert drivers when they’re nearing an obstruction. Current automotive systems employ ultrasonic radars, which are weaker than RF noise technology, ineffective in bad weather and susceptible to interference from other sensors on the road. GhostWave’s RF noise solution only recognizes its own signals and cuts through any interference from neighboring radars.
“Our technology was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University for a project commissioned by the U.S. Army,” said Dean Zody, co-founder and CEO of GhostWave. “The army wanted a stealthy radar for helicopters. During that project, their engineers discovered radar that’s immune from any jamming or interference. Imagine if music was blasting from 5 speakers at once, but you knew one song very well and could hear it despite all the other noise. That’s basically how our radars work. It’s new territory, so then the question became, ‘What can this be used for?’”
The team considered several potential uses for their radar technology, but landed on the automotive industry as an area with a growing need for advanced radar systems. Ultrasonic radar now comes standard in most new cars. With more radar systems on the road, there’s increased concern for interference between vehicles. An estimated 70 million cars equipped with radar will be registered globally in 2017. Companies are also racing to develop autonomous driving systems, which will need to employ radar technology to avoid accidents, potholes and pedestrians to operate safely on the road.
“There’s a big push in the automotive industry for autonomous driving cars. Our technology is a natural fit for some of the issues that these producers will face,” said Zody. “That, with the growing need to address radar interference, made our decision to pursue automotive applications easy.”
GhostWave receives support from Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier, in the form of marketing, financial and legal assistance. The team was also recently awarded a grant from Ohio Third Frontier to accelerate getting this technology to market, with a target of 2018. GhostWave hopes to then explore their radar’s implications in health care, and is particularly interested in medical imaging.
“We’re rolling right now, and I know we owe it to the support we’ve received from Rev1 and the state. That’s been crucial to our development. The connections they provide through their network helped us get off the ground,” said Zody. “It’s awesome to be a part of a community where startups are supported.”