Make Radar Simple: cutting edge mm radar from Radar IQ

Palmerston North Tech Entrepreneur and Engineer Aaron Fulton knows first-hand the challenges of developing a new product and launching it into the market.

26 Jul 2022

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Radar IQ

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Make Radar Simple: cutting edge mm radar from Radar IQ

In 2018, Beta Solutions Engineers Aaron Fulton and Matt van der Werff founded RadarIQ. Their mission? “Make radar simple,” says Aaron.

The pair discovered that radars already on the market produce complex data that takes a lot of processing to make sense of. So, they set out to design a user-friendly sensor for embedded applications – one that would do all the processing, making it simple for other engineers to use.

While researching, Matt and Aaron were excited to discover cutting-edge mmRadar technology. It was the next generation of sensing that was going to hit the mainstream market and they could see huge potential.

Backed by the Research and Development team at Beta Solutions their goal was to “unlock the potential of mmRadar technology for all by creating accessible, easy-to-use products,” says Aaron.

They took a classic Engineer’s approach to the project, building the product first. “In hindsight, it would have been better to deeply understand customer pain points first.”

mmRadar has lots of different applications from robotic vision to measuring heart rates, so their first task was to narrow their focus.
The pair set out to develop a radar sensor that could accurately track objects down to a fraction of a millimetre through walls and in hostile conditions. Their target market was professional engineers looking to trial mmRadar and ‘makers’ who like to tinker with electronics.

With lots of effort, they developed the M1 - a 60GHz sensor module that engineers and makers can integrate into their robotics projects. The sensor outputs simple visual representations of objects.

“The plug-and-play design makes it a breeze to use,” says Aaron.

They successfully launched the M1 radar onto the world market in 2020 via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Within less than 72 hours, they’d exceeded their target of $30,000 and gained the support of 171 backers, proving there was a demand for their product.

The money they raised allowed them to complete two expensive steps in the product development process. The first was to make an injection mould. The second was to meet regulatory compliance so they could sell the M1 sensor overseas.

Aaron says New Zealand doesn’t have a big mass robotics industry, so they knew from that outset that they had to reach overseas markets. From the Kickstarter campaign, around 45% of RadarIQ’s customers came from the US, 25% from Europe. The remaining 30% are from other countries.

Aaron says getting his head around the different regulations for the different markets has been one of the biggest hurdles he’s faced on his entrepreneurial journey.

“It's an incredibly complicated process. I would have spent the best part of a fortnight reading and understanding regulations.”

They’ve met Europe’s CE regulations, so they’re able to access that market. But despite having been through several tedious cycles of product testing and submission, they’re still working on gaining compliance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US.

“In the meantime, we can sell to the rest of the world. When you're on the bleeding edge, things are difficult because all the bugs aren’t ironed out yet. And as it turns out the legislators are still getting their heads around this stuff as well,” explains Aaron.

Another of his key learnings was around the structure of the company.

“We want to get to be a big successful company, but we didn’t have the structures in place to have the time and resources to actually make that happen initially.”

Like every entrepreneurial journey, they’ve made lots of mistakes along the way and Aaron admits there have been times when his motivation has waned. But “the thrill of the chase” always pulls him back on track.

He can see huge potential for RadarIQ and its cutting-edge technology and knows it solves real problems for people.

They’ve had feedback from customers that the M1 has exceeded expectations, which makes it all worthwhile.

“We’re now working on a specialist distance-sensing range for tanks, silos and bodies of water which is aimed at the industrial market,” says Aaron. While Beta Solutions “birthed” RadarIQ, the company is an independent entity and Aaron is excited to see where they can get to. The business started as a side-hustle, but the plan is to scale up and “then we’ll take on the world.”

He encourages local tech entrepreneurs to connect with Manawatech, as well as Manawatū’s Innovation Hub, The Factory, for support.

“Manawatech didn’t exist when we started RadarIQ, but in hindsight using more community connections would have helped get us on the right track sooner.”

Aaron says it’s a misconception that you need to live in a big city to succeed as a tech entrepreneur.

“You can do great things from New Zealand and the regions if you put your mind to it. You just need to have a vision and an unrelenting drive to get there.”