In 2014, Embedded Acoustics won the Netherlands’ Security Innovation Competition (VIC) with its latest invention, the Personal Data Recorder (PDR). The VIC is an initiative of the Dutch Ministries of Defence and Security and Justice, and is sponsored by the IP firm V.O. The company is set to launch the PDR onto the market in 2017. Co-director and founder Sander van Wijngaarden declared, ‘our products truly make a difference.’
The innovation is perfectly in keeping with the philosophy and entrepreneurial spirit of Van Wijngaarden: ‘We always check the market demand first of all. The recorder is primarily aimed at the fire service and the police. During our consultancy work, we noticed that police officers witness all manner of things, but the means of recording was poor. For example, during the riots in the Hook of Holland, audio recordings were made but the recorders failed whenever shots were fired. We felt that needed to improve.
Police and the fire service
‘This innovation is completely tailored to the situation in practice. Imagine that an armed robbery takes place somewhere in the city, and there are a number of police offers in the vicinity with a PDR. The recorder records everything clearly: audio, video and GPS. After the event, you can use Google Maps to synchronise all data and reconstruct the events. Then you soon find out all about what happened. Previously, we had only worked with sound, so a camera was something new. But we dared to make that jump because we know what is needed when it comes to security. The aim is to launch it onto the market next year; we are currently holding detailed talks with a launching customer. And as far as our IP is concerned, the voucher that we received from V.O. for winning the VIC came in very handy.’
From TNO to start-up
Van Wijngaarden studied applied physics in Delft, specialising in acoustics: ‘In that specialisation, you are also concerned with how people perceive sound and not just with hard-core technology.’ It was from there that he made the logical step to TNO, but there was little scope there to translate research into specific products. While at TNO, he also met his current business partner, Jan Verhave: ‘We often said to one another, why don’t we start our own company? It was only when I found myself in a management position and was no longer involved with the subject matter, that the time had come to take that step.’
Embedded Acoustics has not only enjoyed success with the PDR. The company is also a global market leader with a product for measuring the clarity of speech, something that is crucial in building evacuation procedures: ‘When an alarm sounds, people often stay sitting where they are, whereas they take action when they hear a spoken message. But it does need to be understandable in that case. We have enjoyed success primarily in the USA and in Australia, where they are very stringent as far as inspections and standards are concerned. Our device is simple and easy to use. What makes it all worth the effort? Our products truly make a difference, whether for a police officer or for a safe building’.