Interview: 3D Real-time Intelligence In Harsh Environments

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image_mike_sekerka_neptictechNeptec Technologies Corp. is focused upon 3D – 4D real-time robotic vision problems in harsh environments like mining and oil and gas. The company has patented 3D laser scanner technology including patented obscurant-penetrating technology, which is intended to support operations in dusty and less than ideal visual conditions. 3D Visualization World editor Jeff Thurston interviewed Mike Sekerka, CEO at Neptic Technologies Corp. to learn about the products and how 3D and visualization play an integral role in product development and applications.

3DVW: Can you explain how Neptec Technologies Corp. was established and where it fits into the machine control and robotics continuum? How did you personally become involved in the organization? What motivated you?

Mike Sekerka: Neptec Technologies Corp. (NTC) was established in 2011 to commercialize imaging technologies developed over some 20 years by Neptec Design Group (NDG) for NASA. NTC was formed to commercialize these proven technologies for terrestrial applications. We are focusing on real-time robotic vision problems in harsh environments like mining and oil and gas.

3DVW: Could you explain the primary products that you produce and what they are used for? We understand that the new Opal 2.0 lidar scanner is your latest product?

Mike Sekerka Our OPAL 2.0 product family are real-time 3D laser scanners for harsh environments. They incorporate our unique, patented obscurant-penetrating technology. We use them as 3D sensors to help a big machine, like a haul truck, understand its surroundings so it can be automated.

3DVW: What does ‘real-time machine vision’ involve and how do your products serve that goal? Could you describe a few applications of this type?

Mike Sekerka: Neptec supplies both the sensor hardware (OPAL scanners) and software modules we call 3DRi (3D real-time intelligence) for change detection, object identification, object tracking, geo-referencing, and visualizing the data. We also publish an API that customers can use to develop their own application level software if preferred.

3DVW: 3D and visualization play an integral role in your products. What do they bring in terms of value over 2D in your view? Are there specific advantages to 3D and visualization?

Mike Sekerka: The ability to see in 3D is critical in safety applications where the size and proximity of an object needs to be determined. Further, the ability to measure 3D volumes in real time is important in a number of mining and other machine control applications.

3DVW: Many of our readers are working in mining and construction sectors. Does Neptec Technologies Corp. have a role in these applications also?

Mike Sekerka: Neptec specializes in harsh environments. We are looking at a number of applications in open pit mining including automation or operator assistance of haul trucks and loading operations as well as blast fragmentation analysis, long range slope stability monitoring, and real time stockpile volume measurement.

3DVW: We also noted your 3DRi Toolkit, what is that? Can users work with APIs using your products?

Mike Sekerka: The toolkit makes it easy to integrate intelligent applications that rely on the machine actually understanding its environment. The API gives you access to functionality like automatic change detection, object recognition and tracking to name but a few.

3DVW: What do you see as the challenges for using 3D lidar at the present time? Are there enough knowledgeable people to use these technologies and to development applications?

Mike Sekerka Many traditional markets are slow to accept new technologies. The challenge is to find the right first applications where the benefits of the 3D technology can be demonstrated by early adopters.

3DVW: Another large number of our readers are interested n unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV-UAS) and they can be used for 3D / 4D related work. Are you involved in this area using these technologies?

Mike Sekerka: Our products and technology have been selected for rotary wing applications in Degraded Visual Environments.

3DVW: Please explain what your company means when it speaks about ‘The MILD Approach’.

Mike Sekerka: Many people judge LiDAR by the number of points generated (lots of data). We suggest that it is the quality of the points (information) that is more relevant than the quantity. MILD is “More Information Less Data!”.

3DVW: Coming back to mining, does the lidar digital data from your products lend itself more fully to mining related workflows? Could you explain please.

Mike Sekerka: Yes we export the data in standard formats that can be used with third party software and work flows. Our main emphasis is on real time applications more than on post-processing work flows.

3DVW: Many machine control and vision operations are interested to apply lidar, are there other industrial related activities that employ this kind of technology?

Mike Sekerka: Sensors like 3D LiDAR can be used in all sorts of applications. For example, one client is using our OPAL to research the use of 3D sensors to make taxiing of aircraft safer at European airports.

3DVW Neptec Technologies Corp. claims a patent for ‘Obscurant Penetrating Auto-synchronous LiDAR’. Could you tell us what that is about?

Mike Sekerka: This patent covers some of our technology used to image through obscurants such as dust, smoke, fog or rain. It is industry-unique and we offer the only commercial 3D laser scanner with this capability.


Mike Sekerka, P.Eng, MBA (Chief Executive Officer)
Mr. Sekerka has over 20 years of experience in commercializing new technologies and products into various markets. He has held roles in systems engineering, product management, project management, new product introduction and manufacturing operations in both start-up companies and large corporations. His career history includes: DragonWave, Innovance Networks, Nortel Networks, and Cambrian Systems (acquired by Nortel). Mr. Sekerka started his career as an Aerospace Engineering Officer in the Canadian Air Force. He joined Neptec Technologies Corp. in June 2011. Mr. Sekerka holds engineering degrees in Engineering Physics from the Royal Military College of Canada and Electrical Engineering from McGill University, as well as an Executive MBA from the University of Fredericton. Mr. Sekerka is a licensed Professional Engineer and serves on the Academic Board of the University of Fredericton.

Michael Dunbar
Director of Business Development