's profile picture

Happy New Year as we look 80 years back at Radar history

At Novelda, we look back on yet another exciting year full of highlights. In 2014, the XeThru technology was launched as our future foundation for smart sensing and everything connected. With XeThru, Radar systems are introduced into our daily lives, detecting our respiration patterns and movements around our homes. What used to be multi-million dollar installations, are now realized with smart and adaptive algorithms on an integrated device no bigger than the head of a match. Our industry peers acknowledged this unique intellectual property and scale of integration with a $12M financing round. As the embedded world takes to the cloud, Novelda prepares to xethru any obstacles in an environment that grows ever more connected. In true spirit of the season and to round up our year, Novelda goes back 80 years in time to pay homage to the very first functional radar system.

The first hints and ideas that a metallic object would reflect radio waves, dates back more than 80 years. It started with a fierce race between eight nations who, in great secrecy were pushing their best scientists to develop a system to detect and track vessels in water and in the air. However, in December 1934 and for the very first time in history, Robert Morris Page was able to track an airplane flying up and down the Potomac River in Washington DC. The 60MHz pulse-modulated transmitter was located on the roof of the US Naval Research Laboratory building. Far away from today's integrated development environments, were the echoes from the transmitted pulses appearing as small blips on the glowing phosphorous screen of that time’s oscilloscopes. The time was measured between transmitted pulse and its echo to determine the distance to the plane - and the angle of the antenna to give its bearing. With his colleagues (Taylor and Young), Page is credited with inventing the very first radar system. Little did Page know that this technology would be used in monitoring human vital signs 80 years later.

With the turning of the year, Page's work was acknowledged by the U.S. Senate with a grant of $100.000 and all future development being classified Secret. As other nations were in similar secret fashion sprinting to the finish line, great discoveries continued to be made within the domain of detecting and tracking of vessels. Noteworthy in particular, is the work of British scientist Robert Watson-Watt. In the spirit of today's maker movement, Watson-Watt was able to prototype his idea using existing components from its inception on February 12th, proof of concept on February 26th and granted patent for his system for "Detection and location of aircraft by radio methods". The technology would rapidly evolve into the Chain Home, an early detection system that attempted to detect an incoming bomber by radio signals. Multiple of these radio stations were built as the technology matured and would eventually save Britain from many German bombings (Battle of Britain) during the Second World War.

This musing around these two initial years of the technology, that would later be coined RADAR (Radio Detection And Ranging), has a striking resemblance to what is happening today. Radar technology moves beyond tracking vessels and is finding modern uses within the everyday personal domain. The Chain Home of today is in many ways a parallel to the Internet of Things – instead of radio stations reporting incoming bombers, we see a myriad of embedded devices that are connected through the Internet.

As all of us at Novelda embrace the future, we wish you a Happy New Year!