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White cane with space-proven sensor helps the visually impaired

At the end of October, the Brno-based company Svarovsky, s.r.o. completed a project of a white cane upgraded with an electronic sensor enabling monitoring of the nearby surroundings. The innovation is also the first project supported by the ESA Spark Funding CZ programme for the use of space technologies in Earth-based applications.

Svarovsky, s.r.o. has successfully integrated the Single Photon Avalenche Diodes (SPAD) technology into the handle of the white cane, which allows to emit a photon and measure the time of its reflection from an obstacle. The signal is converted into a vibration of the cane handle and the user receives information about obstacles even outside the physical range of the cane. The technology was originally used in the Czech ELT (European Laser Timing) project, which was part of the international ACES (Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space) experiment. This experiment, dealing with time synchronisation on board the International Space Station (ISS), used a SPAD sensor to capture a laser signal sent from the ground station. With the ability to very accurately record the time of photon impact, the technology allowed for very precise control of the on-board clock and coordination with the ground center.

The new use of SPAD technology in the white cane improves the orientation capabilities of the visually impaired and is a good example of the socio-economic potential of transferring space research results to technological applications on Earth.

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success-stories

Software for simulation and improved design of high data rate optical fibres components 

In order to improve services in the field of Photonics Integrated Circuits (PIC), Czech R&D company Argotech sought cooperation with ESA Technology Broker. In order to overcome the challenges associated with high-frequency signals and electromagnetic interference, Argotech and ESA Technology Broker drafted a technology need for a suitable solution that would result in a reduction of the time required to test Argotech’s designs. Through the distribution of the need in the international network of ESA Technology Brokers, a connection was made with CST (later acquired by Dassault), a German company specialising in software analysis of electromagnetic components and systems, including space ones. By eventually successfully applying their software into the texting processes, Argotech has significantly reduced simulation processing time and improved the accuracy of high-frequency data transfer modelling for PIC-based solutions. These advances have enabled Argotech to optimize its products and increase its capabilities in projects such as the PhLEXSAT photo receiver for satellites. 

Reference: Packaging H2020 project PhLEXSAT.
Reference: Packaging H2020 project PhLEXSAT.
Reference: HF packaging H2020 project PhLEXSAT. Receiver @90GHz.
Reference: HF packaging H2020 project PhLEXSAT. Receiver @90GHz.
Reference: PhLEXSAT, mesh of 3D model in CST studio SW prior start of the HF simulation.
Reference: PhLEXSAT, mesh of 3D model in CST studio SW prior start of the HF simulation.