Remote Material Sensing Turns the Invisible, Visible

July 6, 2021

Every material has a unique spectral response defined by its chemical and physical characteristics; that response can be detected by comparing the relative intensities of carefully chosen spectral bands in a process called remote material sensing. While remote material sensing is not a new technology, it has not been ubiquitous because it requires sensing in the Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) spectrum. Existing SWIR sensing is highly expensive because it is manufactured using a compound of exotic materials called Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs). TriEye’s world’s first innovation – a CMOS-based HD VIS-SWIR sensor – allows this technology to be fabricated in mass scale at a much cheaper price, bringing remote material sensing to several new industries.


Remote Sensing as a Driving Solution

In the automotive world, while the human eye cannot tell the difference between wet asphalt or black ice on the road, a SWIR camera would have no trouble differentiating the two because the spectral response of wet asphalt and black ice are different in SWIR. The ability to discern different materials from a distance is independent of the colors of the materials. Even if the two materials have the same color and would be difficult to distinguish with a VIS camera, a SWIR camera could offer ADAS systems valuable information about the scene or the characteristics of the surface materials that other sensor modalities cannot.



Remote material sensing can be particularly useful in Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS). These systems monitor the health and state of the driver and provide alerts if necessary. Thus, they have incredible potential to improve the safety of driving. With remote material sensing in the SWIR spectrum, it is easy to see if a driver is wearing their seatbelt, for example, and provide a reminder for them to put it on. The spectral response of a shirt and a seat belt will be different in SWIR whereas a VIS camera may struggle if the two are a similar color. Remote material sensing in automotive provides life-saving advanced insights in real-time, under any visibility conditions.


Remote Sensing in Additional Applications

With remote material sensing, deep learning applications and human operators can now make fast and informed decisions without needing direct contact with the objects in question. This capability has tremendous potential in several real-world applications: food sorting, recycling, quality control, semiconductor inspection, leak detection, and many more.

Tasks such as recognizing white paint versus glue would be nearly impossible in the VIS spectrum; however, SWIR cameras can do it with ease, as seen in the images below. This sort of identification may be useful in a factory setting to ensure product quality and authenticity. Glue and paint are just some of the many materials that can be distinguished and sorted accordingly: any undesired contaminant, if it is a different material, should be detected by SWIR. Therefore, anything that needs to be sorted or screened in a production line can most likely benefit from a SWIR camera.


In the world of Biometric applications, high-definition 3D masks can be used to fool face recognition algorithms, which render what were once considered powerful security layers obsolete. Masks can be created using many different materials such as plastic, cotton, paper, or resin. SWIR cameras’ remote material sensing capabilities can be used to differentiate real human skin from such masks and the wide SWIR spectrum provides a lot of flexibility to detect other materials that may be used in the future.

As opposed to 3D masks which attempt to impersonate someone else, other spoofing attacks may consist of disguises to avoid recognition. Such spoofing attacks are easy to do because they require basic materials like wigs. Thus, the problem is not detecting skin from a mask, but rather detecting that someone is using a disguise. Because of the unique skin and hair signature in SWIR, remote material sensing can easily be applied in order to detect such disguises and send an alert to the security system.


Nothing Goes Unseen

Remote material sensing has huge potential for many industries — automotive, industrial, surveillance, biometrics, and medical. TriEye enables access to the SWIR spectrum for remote material sensing at a lower cost and in a higher resolution so that these industries can finally benefit from this sensing spectrum. With the TriEye Ovi Development Kit, you can have access to remote material sensing capabilities at a fraction of the current industry rate – contact us for more information.

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