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Bobby Hambrick’s background is as an automation engineer. It was whilst working on industrial robotic projects that he recognised the potential of the emerging market in autonomous systems.
What exactly is an autonomous system? Says Bobby: “It’s a valid question as these systems span both industrial automation and mobility sectors, as a result of which, both are being redefined.” Autonomous systems are ostensibly robots that can perform tasks without human guidance and they are being developed for use in just about every environment on earth and beyond. So far they have been or are soon to be deployed in harvesting, snow grooming, haulage, airborne, the marine sector and more. ‘Low hanging fruit’ include applications such as mining where there is pressure to increase efficiency and throughput, yet where tasks often have a high degree of repeatability. Defence applications were also an early area of research focus: autonomous convoys have long been envisaged as a way of avoiding casualties from detonating IEDs.
AutonomouStuff – a company that Hambrick founded in March 2010 – sells products and services to the autonomous system market. Explains Hambrick:
“The company’s mission is to help make our customers successful, by making it easy to source all of the perception, computing, GPS, and interface components necessary for their projects.”
Typically, this technology is difficult to access today, unless you are interested in ordering 100s or 1000s of units at a time. Sourcing one or two radar units for research purposes is often impossible, which is where AutonomouStuff’s buying power comes in. Says Hambrick: “A large gap in the supply-chain in this sector means we already have customers in every major developing country, creating economies of scale for this type of very specialized equipment.” However, the company also supplies an ever broadening array of more easily located hardware, such as rugged computers, enclosures, actuation and Kvaser’s interface tools, as customers increasingly want to deal with a single supplier.
Reliable support is key
Key to AutonomouStuff’s business model is a commitment to bringing together the World’s best technology that is well supported. Notes Hambrick: “Our unique position in the market is due partly to our focus on recruiting talented support engineers that are knowledgeable in these technologies and can help customers apply them in non-traditional ways.” Prior to signing up as a qualified sales representative for Kvaser, the company worked with a Kvaser competitor but became frustrated at their ‘unreliable support’. Since switching to Kvaser’s interface portfolio, Hambrick’s customers have benefited from “more competitive pricing, better functionality and technology in general, and committed support”.
The automotive sector is one of the most buoyant within the autonomous systems industry as a whole. “With tens of thousands of lives lost annually on US roads alone, every innovative automotive OEM is looking towards providing some level of automation, be it obstacle detection, intersection safety, collision avoidance, and/or full autonomous driving,” says Hambrick. It’s therefore no surprise that CAN has a valuable role to play. He explains: “Autonomous systems need to be highly reliable and have clearly defined system architecture, which is why CAN is popular. While there are plenty of other interface buses in use – particularly as high bandwidth is a typical requirement – they all have pros and cons, and CAN is mostly used at the sensor level.” He concludes:
“Kvaser is customer focused and continuously introducing new products that support the development of autonomous systems. Take the USBcan Light 2xHS for example, it provides a very compact and extremely cost effective solution that enables a single USB connection to two CAN channels. AutonomouStuff is proud to be partnered with Kvaser and looks forward to providing customer solutions together.”
To contact AutonomouStuff, please follow this link