As children we have played with tin-can telephones — a thread connecting two tin cans or paper cups, which alternated as mouth and earpieces. What fun!
Now, an IIT-Madras incubated start-up, Xyma Analytics, is bringing the same ‘technology’ into an area very different from communication — remote sensing.
The conventional way of sensing anything, say, the temperature inside a furnace, or the viscosity of a fluid inside a machine, pressure, humidity, and so on, has been to place instruments inside them such as transducers (which converts certain forms of energy into readable signals) or thermocouples (which measure temperature).
Typically, you would have to take the readings physically.
The sensors made by Xyma Analytics are based on ‘wave-guide ultrasound’ technology; they work somewhat like sonars — you send a sound wave, pick up the reflections and figure out what reflected them back.
Xyma Analytics was started in 2018, but years of technological (and market) research preceded it. The company was founded by IIT-Madras professors Krishnan Balasubramanian and Prabhu Rajagopal, both with PhDs in this area, and Nishant Raja, a post-doctoral researcher at IIT-Madras.
Rajagopal told Quantum that Xyma was the only patented technology in the world that could simultaneously measure both temperature and viscosity. The company has six patents and 14 more with pending grants. The multi-point, multi-parameter sensors “don’t just sense, but also measure”, he said.
Asked what material the sensors are made of, he said it could be any high-temperature refractory material such as ceramics. The sensors could be put into smelters, boilers in power plants and even inside IC engines. Such equipment typically feature thousands of sensors.
Xyma desires to grow globally, bringing a new paradigm in the ‘industrial IOT sensors’ market. The technology is mature and field-ready, he said.
For customers reluctant to replace existing sensors, Xyma is looking at ways to complement, rather than replace them. It is also working with major sensor manufacturers, such as GE, to see if “they could use our sensors”.
Xyma has received undisclosed financial support from Shell’s ‘e4’ initiative, which supports tech start-ups. Rajagopal said the company has already developed a robust supply chain for manufacture and can easily meet any rise in demand.
Xyma counts among its clients companies such as Saint Gobain, Tata Steel, Reliance Industries, BPCL and Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd. US chip company Lam Research “has been one of our oldest backers”.
Rajagopal visualises a scenario where every major manufacturer would have a central point where remote-sensed data would flow into. When sufficient data is gathered, the next step, of course, is to run analytics to derive insights.