Humatics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup developing microlocation technology to precisely track the position of robots, has acquired 5D Robotics and its subsidiary, Time Domain. Huntsville, Ala.-based Time Domain is a 31-year-old company that develops ultra-wideband technology.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. A filing in February 2018 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, however, shows Humatics raised a $7 million equity offering for with a merger or acquisition. Humatics raised $18 million in September 2017.
Both 5D Robotics and Humatics have been developing radio-frequency (RF) sensors to precisely locate objects. But they’ve been focused on different applications. Humatics has focused on human-robot collaboration with early success in the industrial sector; 5D has found traction in autonomous vehicles and smart cities.
Humatics’ centimeter-scale microlocation sensors are already available today. It’s developing millimeter-scale capabilities that can locate objects to within a few millimeters at a range of 10-30 meters. They are being piloted in 2018 and launched in 2019. 5D Robotics and Time Domain can locate objects to within a few centimeters at a range of about 500 meters.
The newly combined company will develop microlocation sensors for those aforementioned markets and more. 5D Robotics has active customers that the combined company will continue to support.
Humatics Has Been Eyeing Autonomous Vehicles
The plan is to first integrate 5D Robotics’ technology into its factory-focused product. But Humatics co-founder and CEO David Mindell told BostInno the major impact is the deal accelerates Humatics’ entrance into the autonomous vehicle space. Localization is a key ingredient in autonomous vehicles, so Humatics had been eyeing the space for some time. This deal “propels us into the mobility space immediately.”
To interact safely with people, autonomous systems need to know precisely where they are at all times. GPS lacks the required accuracy, and doesn’t work indoors. Cameras and lasers help, but they rely on data-intensive maps and fail in dusty, rainy, foggy, or snowy conditions. Only RF technologies are able to overcome all these challenges, 5D Robotics and Humatics claim.
“We have a passion for precision. We’ve always been the state-of-the-art RF solution, providing our customers with centimeter-scale accuracy,” said Rachel Reinhardt, a senior leader at 5D Robotics and Time Domain, who now joins the Humatics management team. “But Humatics takes that to the next level-we’re now millimeter scale.”
“As former head of the D.C. and Chicago Departments of Transportation, I’m acutely attuned to the challenges of keeping people safe as we create the cities of the future,” said Gabe Klein, co-founder of smart cities advisory services firm CityFi and a Special Venture Partner at Fontinalis. “The newly expanded Humatics team has foundational technology that’s poised to augment or replace GPS and better manage interactions between people and moving objects like cars and drones.”
Humatics said the acquisition also brings a considerable patent portfolio under one roof. It claims the new company will be “the only industry player offering a comprehensive technology stack capable of addressing the microlocation challenge.”