By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Would you have ever thought there might be a technology platform that would improve bridge and machinery inspections and also enhance the current state of baby monitoring?
We have to admit we had not prior to sitting down with Bob Wilson, a long-time Knoxville serial entrepreneur. The interview left us fascinated with the possibilities that the team at RDI, LLC is pursuing, thanks to work first funded in Kentucky through a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s the coolest technology I’ve been part of in a long time,” Wilson told us. Those who know him are well-aware of his passion for start-ups and their secret sauce, so making a statement like that is significant.
Further underscoring the point, Wilson said, “It brought me out of retirement to be an entrepreneur again.”
So what is this fascinating technology?
“It’s a non-contact optical detection system that can be used in real time to assess the condition of machines, infrastructure, and humans,” Wilson explains. “The IP (intellectual property) is about light, motion and pixels.”
RDI was founded by Jeff Hay, the inventor and patent holder on the technology. He is a former researcher and PhD at the University of Louisville who formed RDI in 2013 and is RDI’s Chief Executive Officer. Wilson is President, and Jenna Johns is the Chief Operating Officer. RDI has secured other outsourced resources to work on development, IP, and marketing.
In essence, RDI has combined its proprietary software algorithms with off-the-shelf camera technology to detect motion, vibration and respiration. The first two areas are applicable to inspections of plant machinery and infrastructure like bridges; the latter detects respiration which is critical in monitoring babies, identifying sleep apnea, and monitoring vital signs in patients.
RDI has already sublicensed the technology to a company that is using it in the predictive maintenance area for machinery. That product is marketed as OptiVibe™ by Allied Reliability Group. According to the company’s website, “OptiVibe™ measures movement more accurately than any other technology currently being used and does it more efficiently, displaying the data in an intuitive way that enhances problem solving.”
For the RDI team, this is music to their ears.
“This validated our technology,” Wilson explained.
For the critical infrastructure inspection market that includes bridges, RDI has chosen to commercialize its own application under the brand name of BridgeView™. This non-contact approach has a number of advantages.
“It is less costly, because it is less labor intensive and does not require the use of special equipment attached to the bridge,” Wilson notes. In addition, BridgeView™ provides real-time condition information for bridge parts like cables, beams, and the deck in response to traffic going over the bridge. Easy to use visual condition assessment information enables bridge inspectors to identify problems and better direct efforts for repairs and retrofits.
An additional advantage is the fact that BridgeView™ is a low-cost and quick data capture method that provides quantifiable data whenever it is needed compared to the current approach of a costly and labor intensive process for every two-year inspection.
“We use a video camera, point it at a bridge, and turn every pixel into a sensor,” Wilson says. “We can see whether the bridge is acting like it should. Seeing is believing is our motto.”
RDI has partnered with some of the largest bridge inspection companies in the Southeast to field test the technology. It has been well-received by bridge inspectors and the bridge owners.
The third application – respiration – is one that the RDI Team also sees as a significant opportunity. Whether monitoring babies in cribs or patients being assessed for sleep apnea, the optical technology approach does not require special equipment attached to an individual.
“The baby monitoring product has been developed, internally tested, and now in the final prototype development process,” Wilson says. The current plan is to complete the product and either license it to a baby monitoring company or partner with such an entity.
“It’s not a diagnostic tool, but a phenomenal information tool for monitoring your children’s sleep and can provide parents’ with some peace of mind,” he adds.
RDI has just opened a Knoxville office on Technology Drive in West Knoxville. The company is generating revenues, has clients and partners, and products. It is not currently seeking capital, although Wilson says it might later this year to drive growth initiatives.
“We are looking for some developers with specific skillsets for next generation product development and advisors with healthcare and home health-based experience,” Wilson says.
You can find out more information on RDI by clicking on this link.