Zero Point Motion – an early-stage start-up utilising the quantum properties of light to create devices that sense motion with up to 10,000x greater precision than in today's consumer MEMS devices – introduce themselves to the CW community.
How long has your company been in operation, and what was the inspiration for its founding?
Zero Point Motion (ZPM) was founded by Dr. Ying Lia Li (Lia) in 2020, and at the end of 2021 raised over £2.5 million in venture capital seed funding. ZPM develops optically-enhanced inertial sensors which can be manufactured using scalable processes; the first time a UK company has set its sights on the high-volume inertial sensor space. The technology enhances chipscale accelerometers and gyroscopes with a resonant optical readout to allow a high degree of positioning accuracy in GPS-denied environments e.g. indoors or underground. Critical for autonomous platforms such as drones, vehicles, robotics and precision automated manufacturing, these classical sensors are a critical stepping stone for the emergence of quantum-based inertial sensors. The developments by ZPM to-date have led to three patents; two granted in the UK, one to be filed and many more on the horizon
What is special about your company’s products/services?
Zero Point Motion are creating IMUs and inertial sensors for supply into high performance mass-markets. Our patented approach combines MEMS and silicon photonics to measure acceleration and rate of rotation with 100-10,000x lower noise than the traditional capacitive measurement approach. This allows ZPM to achieve high performance without incurring the levels of size and cost associated with typical defence- and aerospace-grade accelerometers and gyroscopes.
This opens up a number of markets and applications in which our inertial sensors can provide an immediate impact. We improve the integrity of autonomous platforms such as drones to enable them to move at higher speeds, with greater safety and in closer formations and to support critical take-off and landing moments when significant amounts of dust are generated that prevents the use of cameras.
In applications which require a high degree of precision such as Optical Image Stabilisation or Motion Capture, our sensors can detect smaller movements than before, enabling sub-pixel stabilisation for image taking and sub-millimetre tracking of wearables.
Our inertial sensors enable customers to track motion for longer and more accurately, especially useful for higher levels of autonomy in cars, producing sub-meter errors after kilometres of travel, without a GNSS positioning fix. And we will unlock the exciting prospect of indoor navigation, allowing for tracking across floors within buildings and hours of pedestrian tracking inside hospitals and stadiums, also benefiting asset positioning within warehouses and robotic guidance in manufacturing.
Where does your company see itself heading in the next ten years?
ZPM’s vision is to become the first high volume inertial sensor company from the UK, looking to supply in volumes of over 10M/year. This path will see ZPM’s inertial sensors being used for a range of applications: in autonomous mobile robots for smart factories, and asset and employee tracking in industrial settings. As our products become smaller and cheaper to manufacture, they will be used in domestic appliances to enable smart homes, such as robotic vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers. A key focus is ensuring our sensors are chipscale, so they can be used within virtual and augmented reality headsets, smartphones and smartwatches, reducing image distortion and blurring within extended reality experiences and solving challenges such as pedestrian indoor navigation within complex indoor environments (e.g. airports and hospitals).
What is your company currently working on?
We are in the process of developing and refining our sensing technology, progressing through iterations of our mechanical and photonic chips to then create packaged prototypes and demonstrators. We are now establishing crucial relationships within our supply chain and engaging with our first customers.
At the end of 2022, we were awarded a 12 month MyWorld grant, valued at £144k, working collaboratively with academics to demonstrate sensors that simultaneously monitor the wearer’s finger motion and forces for each heartbeat. A unique capability not yet explored in the creative sector. This technology could prove transformational, not only Virtual Reality, but even healthcare.
We also perform simulations of inertial sensor performance for different applications to better understand customer needs and requirements, ranging from the high-speed three dimensional trajectories of drones, to autonomous automotive navigation in GNSS-degraded or denied environments.
Who is your CEO and what is their background?
ZPM’s CEO is Dr Ying Lia Li, our technology builds on Lia’s research in optomechanics and quantum sensing, bridging academic and industry research to commercialise her innovative work. Lia expanded her PhD work on whispering gallery modes combining it with her industry experience making inertial sensors at BAE systems to create a chip-scale optomechanical sensor, which is 100-10,000x better than the current sensors available at consumer grade. In 2021 she was awarded the prestigious Institute of Physics Clifford Paterson Medal and Prize for her commercialisation of fundamental physics.
Lia was one of InnovateUK’s 2022 awardees of the Women in Innovation grant, and was named Woman of the Year in the 2023 Best of Sensors Awards at Sensors Converge.
Do you have any job opportunities that might be of interest to the CW community?
We are currently in a hiring phase with a number of vacancies such as: Senior Silicon Photonics Engineer, PIC Engineer, SIMULINK Control Systems Engineer, MEMS Engineer, Process Manager and more!
Details are available on our website: https://zeropointmotion.com/careers
As ZPM grows, there will be more opportunities in the future, including in the ASIC design space, so keep an eye on this space!