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About this episode

In this episode of The IoT Podcast, we’re joined by Wojciech Debski – VP Engineering, Radar Systems at indie Semiconductor to discuss the role of radar technology in the automotive industry and the expanding ways radar is being used for safety and comfort in the vehicle including detecting and recognising obstacles, monitoring driver wellness and enabling predictive maintenance.

We’ll get into the cutting-edge applications of high-frequency radar technology in the automotive sector and how radar MMICs are enabling the miniaturisation and integration of sensors for more streamlined interiors.

Chapters…

  • 00:00 Introduction and Overview
  • 02:41 Indie Semiconductor’s Focus on Radar MMICs
  • 07:03 The Importance of Radar Technology in Automotive
  • 10:28 Innovative Solutions and Higher Frequencies in Radar Technology
  • 15:01 Enhancing Safety and Comfort with Radar Technology
  • 23:47 Sensor Fusion and AI in Radar Technology
  • 26:03 Distributed Intelligence and Future Architectures
  • 30:39 Personal Insights and Inspirations

See part one featuring Chet Babla – SVP of Strategic Marketing: Here

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Tom White (00:00.518)
Welcome to the IoT podcast and welcome Wojciech in this second part here with Indie Semiconductor. Really looking forward to getting into it.

Wojciech (00:10.512)
Hello Tom, nice to see you and great to be here.

Tom White (00:13.766)
Nice to see you and I’m glad you’re here. So this is a special two part episode guys from Indie Semiconductor. Our first part was with the magnificent Cep Babler. Wojciech, if we could start this episode by explaining a little bit about what you do on your side of the organization, please.

Wojciech (00:33.04)
Yes, so me and my team are focused on radars. So I’m representing here RadarBU out of Indy group. And yeah, so as Indy is focused on automotive application, our group is focusing on radars for automotive applications.

Tom White (00:52.646)
Excellent and I think radars is such a hot topic at the moment when we’re talking about Automotive technology and we’re going to get into that today in the podcast and the various types of radars and that can be deployed and why it’s really necessary So in particular your area then we’ll check so it’s more into radar, but how did you get into radar?

Wojciech (00:58.888)
Bye.

Wojciech (01:13.904)
Yeah, so my background is RF engineering. So I studied and then did my PhD in analog RF IC design. And then, yeah, actually first touch with integrated circuits was still for communication. And then I joined a startup company with the main focus on radar applications. And yeah, step by step, I got into radars and…

haven’t managed to get out of that. So it’s already 20 years in the business and still finding challenging, interesting and seeing new applications, new things to develop and looking forward to next generation of radars, next ideas where we can implement radars. And the demand is growing. So I believe I will have enough.

Tom White (01:46.118)
Hehehehe

Wojciech (02:10.288)
to do until retirement.

Tom White (02:12.482)
Absolutely, I think, well if you look at radar technology over the years, it really has come on loops and bounds and I think in particularly in the automotive industry and the wider semiconductor industry in which Indy plays a significant part, it has a vital part to play. So within radar, so radar can mean many different things to many different people. What does it mean to Indy and in particular, what’s the business unit focused on when we talk about radar on check?

Wojciech (02:41.872)
So our main focus is to develop radar MMICs, meaning the heart of the radar sensor. So the IC which is able to generate, send out, receive RF or high frequency signals and then process those signals and then give the signals out to external circuitry to make decisions. What…

should be done with the information which which radarship is providing. Generally what radarship is providing is the recognition of or detection of targets. And so so radars are able to measure the speed and the position of of an obstacle moving or stationary. And and then there is another intelligence let’s call it like that required to to

to decide what we do with this information.

Tom White (03:40.614)
Got it, got it. And I think for me, there’s some uniqueness as well around Indy and your technology that you’re using, which isn’t actually commonplace within the automotive industry. And Indy is quite well known for its radar technology and has a really good reputation. So what makes it unique then? And how is it different to perhaps how radar is used elsewhere? We’ll check.

Wojciech (04:06.384)
So we are pretty innovative and we try to do tailored design. So we closely work with our partners to develop the solution which would come against your requirements, your needs. And with this, we try to be as innovative as possible. So…

We come up with new solutions, not only look for standard off -the -shelf or state -of -the -art technologies which are used for radars, we are looking also way ahead and looking at very high frequencies or higher frequencies beyond the standard state -of -the -art 77 to 82 gigahertz band, but looking at higher frequencies which open new possibilities, however, the designs or

yet development of radars for that high frequency is also challenging. So that’s where we try to be the first in the market and gives us certain, I don’t know, we can create certain space or even

influence on what is going to happen there. Yeah, so we come up with brand new solutions and. Yeah, so, I know. Maybe we should record it again.

Tom White (05:36.998)
Yeah.

Tom White (05:48.262)
It’s okay, go on, start again, that’s okay.

Wojciech (05:51.076)
So what we do at Indie, we also look at not only state -of -the -art frequencies or frequency range state -of -the -art gradars we try to develop. We look at the new opening bands which enable us providing new solutions.

adding quality, adding value to current radars and also making new paths on the radar market.

Tom White (06:35.43)
Excellent. Yeah. Thank you for explaining that, Wojciech. I think, you know, the different functionality and different bands of radar that you described, it’s very interesting because radar fundamentally, the sensor modality in the past has been used for ADAS, hasn’t it? It’s quite well known in automotive safety applications. Could you talk a little bit more around why it’s important that this technology is moving towards automotive? Because…

There’s a safety aspect, but other aspects that we should consider with radar technology.

Wojciech (07:10.64)
Yeah, so safety is the key driver here. However, you can define safety in various regions. So what we currently are looking at is radars which are, let’s call it, looking at the outside of the car, monitoring the environment around the car, and they are taking care also about the driver safety, meaning that…

informing the driver about obstacles, maybe braking when it’s required. And then the next pass or the next applications, what we can look at is having a look at the interior of the car. What can be reached there also from a safety point of view. So we have passengers in the car and radar is able to detect the

heart rate respiration of a human being or not only a human being, but it can be also an animal. So then we can employ radar to, for instance, monitor the driver from his wellness perspective. So how he’s behaving, if he has a good heart rate, if he’s looking at the road. And that opens

quite a fast number of applications and most of them are generally safety related. You can connect them also not only to safety but also to comfort but safety finally it comes out also that safety is playing major role here. So starting with the very basic application is like presence detection. So it’s now compulsory to install

sensors which would detect a baby left, a baby which is left in the car. So there have been many, many cases where somebody simply forgot about the child and it can happen. It can be pretty dramatic as a consequence of leaving, for instance, a child on the parking lot in full sun.

Wojciech (09:32.272)
So that’s the first safety applications, one of the first safety applications. But then we can look at the more sophisticated radar can, for instance, monitor the driver. So taking the heart rate and respiration and looking at those signals, one can or…

intelligence which is building the radar sensor can estimate the condition of the driver. So if he’s sleepy, if maybe he’s about to get heart attack and so that’s one of the applications. Then with the radar it’s also possible to look at the position of the driver. So in case of an accident then airbags can be deployed accordingly. So that’s also very important.

application from a safety point of view.

Tom White (10:28.326)
Thank you, Walczek, that’s an in -depth answer. I think for me, it blows my mind how much radar can be used aside from what most people perceive it to be used around the ADAS system or proximity to other cars and the external use. But to know that you can do passenger monitoring, vital signs, positioning, and from a comfort perspective, really is quite fabulous. And to do that with…

with some degree of accuracy. I think everyone’s driven a car for a period of time where it might pop up on the entertainment to say, take a rest or whatever. But with this, what you’re saying is that it’s possible to actually look to see if there are some signs from the driver which suggests that maybe a rest is needed or there may be some worry. And that really is quite fabulous, isn’t it?

Wojciech (11:03.824)
I’m not going to be late. Thank you.

Wojciech (11:21.008)
Yes, it is. And it goes even farther. There’s still a lot of research done and one can, for instance, detect or estimate, for instance, epilepsy attack. Way ahead it really happens. And the same can be with the heart attack. Yeah. So that’s also giving the information way ahead to, or way ahead it can happen. And we have to imagine that we have a car.

on the road, it can be highway, the car can drive really fast. And here in this case, every second matters. And very often the driver is alone in the car. So there’s not even another person by which is able to help. So that’s really, really innovative and can be really a huge improvement from safety point of view. But safety in this way that it’s…

the radar will take care also about the passengers inside and also the people driving around. Because we have generally a car which can be out of control in very short time and moving also very often very very fast.

Tom White (12:39.238)
I think the black ice detection, the looking at the vital signs, I mean being able to predict potential epilepsy or heart attacks before they happen, for as you say when people they may be driving at high speeds on their own etc. It’s not just them, it’s other people around them which is really really important. I mean it’s so critical.

And it brings me back actually to your earlier point about when you say safety, well, what do you mean by safety? Because there’s so many different aspects, of course, right? And it’s not until you really get under the skin do you really see how vital this is. And it’s really quite impressive work that the guys are doing and indeed that your teams are working with this because this is life -saving technology that can be deployed and it’s absolutely critical, isn’t it?

Wojciech (13:28.72)
It’s.

Wojciech (13:36.048)
Yes, it is. And so here we try to make use of the high frequency as a band or advantage, which enables us to miniaturize the sensors, because once we go to the high frequency, everything gets smaller. So because of the wavelength, so it’s just pure physics, we can build smaller modules because the antennas are getting much smaller. And that’s also…

some benefits for car builders because they always want to have the interior looking very nice. So you want to feel comfortable, you want to feel like at home, not put into the environment where you have the number of screens and some strange components sticking out of the body. So the advantage of high frequency give us…

possibility to hide the sensors, make them transparent for the driver and people using the car. And yeah, so that’s the first thing. And then the other advantage of the high frequency is also that once we move to higher frequency, we can benefit from the larger available bandwidth. And the bandwidth is actually also a parameter which transfers directly to the measurement resolution in the radar.

So we get out of that number of benefits related to how the car can look like, but also the functionality and accuracy of our measurements. And that leads us, for instance, to not only monitor people, but we can also monitor the position of the car itself. So modern cars or…

they should be more comfortable so that the chassis should be adjustable. So meaning the distance between the street or the road and the car can be or should be adjusted depending on where you are driving, what kind of road you have underneath. And that’s where radar may also be deployed. There’s also, once we have very high frequency, we can detect micro movements.

Wojciech (15:57.968)
micro movements, meaning the movements which are in micrometer range. And then it comes to predictive maintenance because the car is vibrating, generally the whole car is vibrating. But once something is about to get damaged, it starts to vibrate in different way. And with radar, looking at those parts, for instance, motor or some moving parts, we can have a look at.

at the spectrum which is produced by a certain component and then estimate if the component is still working okay or it’s about to break. And that’s another big field of predictive maintenance which can be again used not only for comfort but used also for our safety because it’s like…

It may happen that if something breaks down at high speed, the driver can do nothing more. He’s just a passenger moving around in a car which is broken and then it can have severe impact.

Tom White (17:08.038)
Yeah, I think for me, the predictive maintenance is really quite incredible and for our listeners and viewers to kind of bring this to life. So and correct me if I’m wrong, but are we saying here then that, you know, potentially the steering wheel, the car vibrates a certain amount when driving, but if that was to do it uncharacteristically or other elements of the car, then the radar is able to detect if there is a fault or a problem either within the steering rack.

or otherwise, and then we’ll alert the driver to say that there is a potential safety failure and that you should go and seek attention. Is that what we’re saying here with predicted maintenance? Yeah.

Wojciech (17:48.944)
Exactly. We can look at the wheel. So you have a lot of components which are inside there and the wheel is also vibrating all the time and one is turning. But for instance, if something starts breaking in the wheel, then the vibration is going to be different. We can observe the vibrations and then once something starts breaking that we see other frequency components meaning

additional vibration which is not even felt at the early stage by the driver. So the driver doesn’t know that something is going to break. So once we feel it, it’s already mostly too late.

Tom White (18:30.918)
Interesting. So I mean, that is just spectacular though, the accuracy within radar to be able to do it. So what you’re saying, and I agree, so once you feel it, it’s already a problem, you’re going to need to stop. But you’re saying that the radar is able to detect it even before it becomes a problem and very slight differences perhaps. Is that the understanding that I’m getting here?

Wojciech (18:56.144)
Yeah, so we are able to detect movements of vibrations which have amplitudes of micrometers. So it’s like, and we can tell if the vibration is happening at two micrometers or if the vibration starts to happen at five micrometers. And this is the difference which probably none of us is able to feel while driving a car. And that, but we…

Tom White (19:20.774)
Mmm.

Wojciech (19:24.432)
radar is able to detect that. And with this, you get enough information to the central unit to make decision and you can inform the driver. Way ahead, something wrong happens. So it’s like, can be still enough to drive further 100 kilometers and get to the workshop.

Tom White (19:45.486)
So playing devil’s advocate with this, so obviously it’s very advanced down to micro measures of distance. How does it counter out say false alarms? So let’s say the driver has gone off road or is on a different texture to say, you know, a motorway or something. Is there built in mechanisms or can there be built in mechanisms to…

to kind of say, well actually, it’s not a fault, it’s the surface, for instance.

Wojciech (20:16.848)
Yeah, so what we are talking here is the future technology. So not all the problems are solved. And I guess here what we are looking at is AI, which is a big friend of such applications because radar is prone to false alarms. And that’s why also with INI, we have also immersed cooperation or large cooperation with

Tom White (20:22.264)
Yeah.

Wojciech (20:46.896)
looking towards AI and implementation of AI to radars. And I see a big role, not only adding AI to the radar, but also making fusion with other sensors, because generally you don’t have a solution which is covering all use cases and giving you 100 % certainty about

the decisions. So there is no one sensor able to work in every environment and every condition. And sensor fusion is probably the key word here. And with sensor fusion, we get the confidence level combined probably with AI to get the confidence level which will…

Yeah, avoid annoying drivers because it’s like if you drive and then you simply go from tarmac to off -road or gravel and then you don’t want to hear that, sorry, your wheel is going to fall off and it’s not going to happen because you are just driving somewhere else. Yeah.

Tom White (22:01.51)
Yeah, yeah, and that leads me on really nicely to my next point around future technologies because I can completely understand from a consumer point of view the number of false alarms. It’s a bit like being in an office block testing a fire alarm every week, you know. The worry is if there is a fire when the test is on every week, no one moves, right? So one could say the same thing about the automotive side. So I think the future for you then in terms of…

ensuring both accuracy within radar technology, but also improving deployment of ADAS and driver automation. Live partly in AI to be able to distinguish fact from fiction perhaps.

Wojciech (22:44.272)
Yes, and yeah, so it’s like, as I mentioned, so we have to look at different technologies and try to make use of those technologies and combine them. And I think that the message here should be, it’s like, yeah,

As much as I like radars, I would say it’s not the only sensor technology which has to be involved in or implemented in the car or generally for every application. So, to get to the safety requirement or safety level requirement which has to be reached in automotive market,

we have to have different sensors to get different point of views on the same condition or on the same case.

Tom White (23:47.982)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I think it’s, I think, you know, for me, it’s a really exciting time in the future with the technology and how it’s going to be developing. And there’s a couple of other things that it’s worth bringing up here. So obviously costs, driving costs and power consumption down, both within the sensing solutions moving forward and India working on things like that at the moment to do that, right? Is that, is that what one of the primary concerns?

clearly from manufacturers in making this more cost effective, but also consuming less power in general.

Wojciech (24:23.92)
Yes, it is. So it’s a major optimization point, I would say. So power consumption is like, once you look at the single sensor or single MMIC, it might not sound very severe. But what we are looking at finally is a sensor set. So the car currently…

uses at least five or generally we are looking at five radar sensors for every car yeah and that’s exterior only so if you add an interior maybe you need one or two even for interior then if you are looking at predictive maintenance maybe you would add a couple of those there and then you have also other systems and finally what we want to use we want to use electric vehicles and they are powered with the battery and

We don’t want to reduce the driving comfort and therefore, yeah, the aim is to reduce the power consumption of a single MMIC to look for as efficient solutions, power efficient solutions. And so we are looking also for new technologies which offer us capabilities to reduce the power consumption. So we are looking at really and cooperating with the…

with the partners to get access to the newest technologies which enable us to design high frequency but also very efficient components from power consumption point of view.

Tom White (26:00.646)
Mm.

Yeah, and I think that’s a trend within the industry, of course, as well as improving efficiency, lowering costs and so on. Because by doing that, it’s more accessible and ultimately the consumer that’s buying this or using this will be paying less for either the car or whatever.

It’s a good move. What other things are we looking at in terms of the future? Distributed intelligence in terms of architectures, etc. How does that look?

Wojciech (26:25.008)
Yeah, so, yeah.

Wojciech (26:35.536)
Yes, so edge computing, distributed intelligence in generally, and adding more computing to single sensor or computing power to single sensor. Of course, there are still discussions, what is the best solution if centralized computing and or edge computing is the best solution. There are still a lot of discussions.

going on and a lot of challenges with both solutions or both concepts which are ahead of us. So yeah, that’s pretty much what is happening. But that’s still the future and but the future comes sooner as we sometimes imagine. So yeah, well, if you look at, I don’t know, 20 or 25 years,

Tom White (27:26.15)
Yes.

Wojciech (27:34.544)
nobody would think that we are at the stage where we have almost fully autonomous cars driving around and we get the sensor technology to that level as we have now. Some years ago, radar was related to the huge military radars and nobody would imagine I can have four or five radars on my car.

Tom White (27:53.958)
Yeah.

Tom White (27:59.014)
Yeah.

Tom White (28:05.414)
Yeah, well, completely. And there’s probably still a lot of people out there that think about sonar technology when we talk about radar, let alone lidar and all of the different radars that is involved in the automotive industry. I think one thing for me, which seems to be a pattern that we have within guests on the podcast, certainly within automotive, is this convergence of different technologies at the same time, being able to really drive the benefit back to the consumer.

So you’ve got the advancement in Breda, you’ve got edge computing and things like tiny machine learning and AI working in parallel to be able to do this at the edge on the device quickly without going back up to the cloud making intelligent decisions. And ultimately to improve safety, to improve quality, to improve experience.

And it’s really fabulous to see. And we haven’t had a lot of people talk about Radar in the past. So for me today, it’s been so enlightening to hear about all of it. And it feels so magical to have that amount of detail as well. Yeah, it’s really quite impressive. It must be such a great organization to be part of and to really be driving at the forefront of this world, check.

Wojciech (29:16.272)
Yes, it is. And, yeah, so I’m really happy and also motivated to work because it’s like, it’s my work is also kind of passion. So and I guess the team, our team is a team of passionate people. So it’s not job. It’s not only the job which we are doing, but we are, I don’t know, it’s our hobby. I can speak for at least…

I mean, the group of people working together here in our BU is really, yeah, the environment which is encouraging each other and driving us to come up with new ideas, come up with better ideas, improve ourselves and yeah, it’s a really great environment.

Tom White (30:10.566)
that’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. Well, listen, it’s been absolutely fantastic having you on the show today and learning more about your BU within Radar and finishing this two -part series that we’ve done with Bindi Semiconductor. So thank you so much for coming on. As always, we finished with a couple of wrap -up questions. We’ll check if I can ask you a couple of those. So a little bit lighthearted, but get to know you as an individual a bit more. What technology solution…

Wojciech (30:29.488)
Thank you.

Tom White (30:39.078)
would you like to see implemented that is currently not there. So a challenge you have in everyday life that you think really someone should build some tech around this.

Wojciech (30:49.232)
Actually, what I think could be done and we have already means to do that, it’s solving admission control. And I keep losing my keys and I keep forgetting where they are. And I would like to simply enter my house and not…

not anybody but I or me or my members of my family, I would like to enter my car and also enter my office without having anything on me and without remembering that they have to have it with me.

Tom White (31:31.302)
Yeah, yeah, do you know what? I feel the same. Although I’m not sure how comfortable I am with having a microchip within my skin. I’m not sure if I’m there yet. I think, yeah, would you? Well, would you? I don’t know if I would. I feel a bit uncomfortable as to what else it might do. I think I’d feel better off just holding my keys for the time being.

Wojciech (31:42.)
I would do it. Yeah.

Wojciech (31:52.912)
So the next very, very hot topic for me is the link between electronic and our body. So neurolink, for instance. Yeah. So that’s something which I would like also to see. I don’t think it’s going to be in close future because it requires a lot of research or a lot of investigation. There are a lot of aspects which have to be considered there. But we see companies who are already…

Tom White (32:00.558)
narrow link

Wojciech (32:21.224)
really, really, really far with the development. So I see that or I find it also extremely interesting.

Tom White (32:26.086)
Yeah.

Tom White (32:30.982)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think that’ll be, I think it’s the future. I think we’re away off from political security, health concern, et cetera. But yeah, a lot of topics, as you say, that need to be considered. What’s the coolest application that you envision for the future for radar technology?

Wojciech (32:53.36)
Bye.

I guess.

The monitoring of health application I see as a very, very important and interesting application which radar can handle. And because as I mentioned with radar, we can very, very precisely monitor the heartbeat or the vital sign of person. And I see this as a…

very, very important. I would like to see radar in every home. We have a society which leaves their parents alone at home. And at a certain point, we will be also at the age where I don’t want to live somewhere in a bigger community once I retire. But I would like to feel safe. And I guess the radar technology can ensure that safety.

Tom White (33:53.542)
Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, that’s something close to my own heart as well because what is more important than health and safety and wellbeing, right? And I think there’s so many different aspects of radar technology that has such a foothold within this that it totally makes sense. And finally, Wojciech, what is a book, movie or song that sparks your inspiration in life?

Wojciech (34:20.56)
I would say I would pick up here movie and I don’t know if, yeah, it’s Matrix, but the first one, it’s still scars me a bit, but it also points out where we can lead and or where we can be if we don’t take certain precautions. And we, yeah, so that was like something which is,

Tom White (34:30.086)
Okay, yeah, the best one.

Wojciech (34:49.968)
at that time was totally out of mind for me, at least the division. And once we leave those couple of years from there, we see that it can go there. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s like all the benefits of Neuralink’s automatization sensors that can…

AI as well, they can help us, but at the same time they can be raised against us. So, yeah, that’s something what I still see as inspiring and not outdated.

Tom White (35:38.694)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Small fun fact, it’s not that fun actually, but I’ll say it anyway, but The Matrix is the first film that I ever watched twice in a row. It was that good, it blew my mind. 1999, I remember it very clearly. I was watching it on a gateway PC at home when we didn’t have a DVD player. I put it into the PC and watched it. Fantastic film, great way to end the show.

Well, Chet, thank you so much for coming on to the IoT podcast. I’ve loved getting to know you and Indy Semiconductor in this special two -part feature. It’s been great having you here. Thank you for coming.

Wojciech (36:18.736)
Thank you for having me. I had a great time here. Thank you.

 

About our guest

Wojciech Debski is the VP of Engineering for Radar Systems at indie Semiconductor, with expertise in RF for radar applications and a solid grasp of IEC standards. He brings hands-on experience in analog and mixed signal designs, using tools like ADS and PCB Design.

With a focus on communication systems, he ensures seamless integration of radar technology, driving innovation in automotive safety and beyond.

ABOUT indie Semiconductor

indie Semiconductor, founded in 2007, is a pure-play automotive fabless chip company. They design chips for key features in modern cars like ADAS, connected car tech, and user experience. Their focus on automotive has made them a leader in the “autotech revolution.”

Find out more about indie Semiconductor: Here

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