Ambisense designs low-cost instruments to monitor quality levels of gas and air

Landfill gas one of the main sources of air pollution globally, says CEO Stephen McNulty

Ambisense founder Prof Dermot Diamond, chief technology officer Fiachra Collins and chief executive Stephen McNulty

Ambisense founder Prof Dermot Diamond, chief technology officer Fiachra Collins and chief executive Stephen McNulty

 

Ambisense is a Dublin City University spin-out company focused on developing next generation sensor technologies. In particular, the company is using sensor technology to target compliance and process monitoring applications in environmental settings.

“We design and manufacture autonomous, ‘in-field’, analytical instruments for monitoring gas and air that replace what are currently inefficient, labour intensive and expensive monitoring systems,” chief executive Stephen McNulty says.

McNulty comes from a business background while his co-founder and chief technology officer, Fiachra Collins, previously worked at the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR) in DCU. The company’s scientific adviser is Prof Dermot Diamond, the founding director of the NCSR. His area of expertise is the application of next generation sensor technologies in environmental and biotech applications.

“Landfill gas is one of the main sources of air pollution globally and a major contributor to global warming. Based on the systems already out there we identified a clear need for a superior methodology of monitoring that gas,” McNulty says. “Initially the DCU research team secured funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop the technology and subsequently from Enterprise Ireland to explore its commercial viability.

“It is our view that next generation autonomous sensor technology combined with the ubiquitous nature of internet connectivity is a disruptive technology within the environmental monitoring sector. It is also our view that it will rapidly replace low-tech processes with low-cost, SMART autonomous instruments.”

McNulty first came in contact with the research being carried out at DCU through Enterprise Ireland’s Business Partners programme. He then worked with the research team and DCU’s technology transfer office to explore the commercial potential of the research and then to spin it out into a company using IP licenses from DCU.

“Existing solutions are either highly expensive continuous monitoring instruments, most of which require mains power and a high level of ongoing operator involvement, or cheaper handheld instruments,” McNulty says.

“The handsets, while mobile and suitable for some applications, are extremely labour intensive and generate sparse datasets that are of limited value to customers. Ambisense is a hybrid solution that enables automated, continuous monitoring of any process from any location at a fraction of the existing cost.”

Multiple markets

The company’s main competition comes from those currently selling analytical instruments (that are expensive to buy) and/or handheld devices.

“There is a particular need in the landfill sector for automated monitoring on remote sites with limited manpower given the requirements to measure gas both from a compliance and a process efficiency perspective,” McNulty says.

“There are also huge opportunities for us in the future in the water sector. One of the major goals of Horizon 2020 (the EU framework programme for research and innovation) is to stimulate the adoption of more efficient emerging sensing technologies by the water sector.”

Ambisense launched its technology to an Irish customer base in 2014 and this year marks its move into the international market. It is now selling in Britain and Australia.

The company currently employs four people and produces its devices in Dublin. McNulty says it will continue to self-manufacture until sales numbers justify otherwise. McNulty estimates that it has cost in the order of €500,000 to get the company to its current position.

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