BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold Visited Exensor to meet Managing Director Phil Ashworth.
Exensor, based in Basingstoke UK is an international leader in sensor and protection networks for sensitive areas and infrastructures. The company, part of Bertin Technologies, itself a subsidiary of CNIM.
“How long has Exensor been in the UK?” The Editor asked.
“Exensor started in Sweden in 1987 as a break out of a Swedish Ministry Of Defence research programme and expanded through the early 21st century by acquiring CRL in Kalmar and Arkonia in the UK. The UK Company, originally Watkins Johnson UK and then Arkonia, were a key supplier of surveillance technology to the UK MoD – hence in 2010 when Exensor were looking to grow there was a clear fit between Exensor and Arkonia. Exensor has a comprehensive R&D facility in Kalmar, Sweden which is constantly updating and refining our technology. The Kalmar facility works closely with the Basingstoke facility, which is the Exensor manufacturing centre of excellence for all our products. We employ 18 people here in Basingstoke with a total of 40 staff in the UK and Sweden with a turnover of £15 million, which gives an impressive revenue per employee ratio. We have customers in 15 countries in the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and Africa and a total of 22 users. We recently concluded or largest Asian order worth some £10 million last year.”
Exensor Technology Background
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From headquarters in Lund Sweden, a centre of expertise in network communications at the Communications research lab in Kalmar Sweden and a production site outside of Basingstoke UK, Exensor designs, develops and produces state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of customers. Exensor’s systems are used in a wide number of military, home land security and civilian applications world-wide.
Exensor provides unattended ground sensor networks for sensitive areas and infrastructures and has key international clients in the defence and security sector. The company Verdane invested in Exensor in 2013, and Verdane Capital Advisors and other shareholders have supported management in expanding the company’s international sales and in identifying new usage areas in the civilian market, for example to protect critical infrastructure. Revenues have grown nearly fourfold during the fund’s holding period.
Takeover by Bertin Technologies
On July 31st 2017 Verdane NVP II SPV K/S (Verdane), Marginalen Group AB, Erland von Hofsten Advokat AB and a further 16 private investors sold Exensor, to Bertin Technologies, a subsidiary of CNIM Group. CNIM Group is listed on Euronext Paris stock exchange with a 2017 turnover of €950 million, employing 2500 staff with 54.6% of products being exported. The acquisition of Exensor will strengthen Bertin Technologies’ strategic development in the global instrumentation and surveillance market for defence and security applications. The transaction closed on 31 July, 2017. EY acted as lead financial advisor to the selling shareholders and Vinge provided legal advice.
Bertin Technologies, subsidiary of CNIM Group, relies on its long history of innovation to develop, produce and market innovative systems and equipment worldwide. With close to €96 million in revenues and 700 employees in 2016, of which 2/3rd are engineers and high-level managers, Bertin Technologies and its subsidiaries work in four major fields: Systems and Instrumentation, Consulting and Engineering, Information Technology and Pharmaceuticals and Biotechs. Based in the Paris region, the company is active worldwide. More information can be found at: www.bertin-technologies.com
Constructions Industrielles Mediterranee SA (also CNIM), is a France-based company providing high technology turnkey industrial solutions worldwide to three sectors: Environment, Innovation and Systems and Energy. In the Environment sector, CNIM is engaged in household waste, biomass waste-to-energy plants and flue gas treatment systems. In the Innovation and Systems division, CNIM has two areas of activity: CNIM Industrial Systems and Bertin. Industrial Systems provides services in the defense, nuclear and scientific research sectors. Bertin provides consultancy, technological solutions and designs and supplies equipment. The Company operates two businesses in the Energy sector: CNIM Babcock Services and Solar Energy. The main shareholder of the Company is Soluni SA.
“How will Exensor benefit from the takeover by Bertin Technologies?”
“It is a perfect fit for Exensor as it not only gives us access to Bertin’s optics and networking technologies but also the worldwide financial clout and network of CNIM. One of my key tasks is to support the introduction of Bertin’s and CNIM’s complimentary products in the UK to the MoD and other government organisations. We will expand our portfolio of products and technology to offer turnkey surveillance solutions to our customers linking remote sensors to long range cameras, CBRNE and border protection systems. Due to a close cooperation between our Customers, our Engineering team and in-house Operational experts we are able to offer the most advanced UGS systems available in the market place today. Exensor has designed and built our solutions around a flexible platform (Flexnet) to enable rapid development and integration of the very latest technologies to ensure we provide reliable and proven products to meet the demands of the modern soldier. The transaction enables us to continue our expansion in a growing market from a position of real strength, which will benefit our customers and employees alike.”
Exensor Technology Systems
“Exensor Technology has an extensive background in the field of UGS and Network based sensor systems.
Since 1987 Exensor has developed wireless Ground Sensor Systems for armed forces world-wide. The Company employs a world leading team of engineers who together have more than 150-man years of experience in developing and designing networked unattended Ground Sensor Systems. This, in conjunction with the use of external partners gives Exensor an accumulated specialized engineering pool of more than 1000-man years.”
“Exensor offers a diverse range of unattended ground sensors that can be tailored for a vast number of applications. Our UGS are some of the most reliable sensors available today due to the combination of highly sophisticated hardware platforms that integrate the latest power efficient circuitry and high-capacity processing along with Exensor’s unique advanced embedded detection, classification and identification algorithms. Data fusion implemented at sensor level greatly improves reliability, reduces power consumption and keeps transmission data to an absolute minimum.” Phil Ashworth continued.
Flexnet is a fully integrated, scalable sensor platform with an open interface that allows for easy integration of external sensors. The UMRAWin map-based Command and Control (C2) software has been developed in close cooperation with Exensor’s customers to provide an intuitive, easy to operate interface between man and machine. The API software enables integration of other external sensors (UGS, cameras, radars, effectors) in to the Flexnet platform. It also serves as an effective integration tool for integration of Flexnet in to other BMS platforms as required.
The self-healing, ‘silent’ Mesh Network developed by Exensor over a period of 10 years is the back-bone of the Flexnet sensor platform. This vitally important rugged and proven network supports data not only from low data rate UGS but also supports fast and low power transmission of pictures from remote miniaturized Scout cameras part of the Flexnet sensor platform. All radio links are automatically monitored to ensure the most stable link is used at any given time.
The Flexnet platform combines a tool box of intelligent wireless sensor and camera types that together offers a unique capability to detect, classify, identify and track moving objects on the ground. The tool-box approach allows each user to tailor his system configuration for every mission. Sensor hardware and software has been developed and refined by Exensor engineering team over the last decades resulting in the most intelligent and reliable UGS sensor types existing in the market today.
All sensors and cameras are wireless sensors with integrated radio for communication, GPS for auto-location and rechargeable or replaceable batteries for up to several years of autonomy. They all communicate in a self-healing Mesh Network.
The UMRA Mini range of sensors comes in different versions (various sizes and various battery options) and use integrated and fused seismic/acoustic sensors to detect and classify movements on the ground. The sensors detect and classify persons and vehicles at ranges up to 100m distances from the sensor. Unique algorithms have been developed by the Exensor engineering team to detect and classify other type of activities.
The Mesh PIR sensors registers heat from passing objects and determine the direction of a travelling object. The Mesh PIR family of sensors includes a range of PIR lenses with various detection ranges. Due to a clever design the operator easily switches lenses on the fly to fit the needs of each specific mission. The Mesh PIR sensor can be fused with UMRA Mini seismic/acoustic sensors to create “conditional” alarms in more complex deployment scenarios.
The Scout cameras are intelligent cameras triggered by external sensors, such as UMRA Mini and Mesh PIR sensors. The Scout camera remains in stand-by mode until woken up by an external sensor alarm. The built-in motion algorithms detect movement and activate the camera to take images, compresses them and transmit them back to the C2 base. The Scout camera uses advanced image processing technology allowing fast transmission of images over the Mesh network. Single TI head as well as dual TI/B&W camera lenses with various focal lengths are available to fit each specific mission.
Gateways and VMS modules
The Intelligent Gateway can be used as a Base receiver/transmitter (connected to Base C2) or as a repeater unit for extended range. The unit contains a short and a long-range radio. The short-range radio communicates with any of the Flexnet sensors within a range of 1 km LOS. The long-range radio communicates with other Gateways over the Mesh Network or directly to a Base Gateway at the base location at ranges up to 15 km LOS. Each Gateway integrates an internal rechargeable battery module providing up to 40 days (optional 1 year) operational endurance and a GPS for automatic location. The underlying Mesh Network technology developed by Exensor allows highly secure, reliable and efficient communications throughout the entire Flexnet system. “The Intelligent Gateways are able to store data from local sensor fields and will allow remote ‘secondary’ mobile bases to plug in to the network to access information (sensor alarms, configurations, etc) as required. Exensor’s software solutions are all open architecture which allows us to plug-and-play other manufacturers’ systems and software seamlessly.” Phil Ashworth said.
The new VMS module is an extended Gateway version with an integrated Video Management Server allowing connection of external video cameras to the system. The VMS module communicates with deployed Flexnet sensors via VHF and triggers/activates fixed as well as PTZ cameras and/or other IP devices connected to the VMS module. Video will be recorded on the VMS module and/or transmitted back to a central C2 location via external/backbone networks (Cellular, Satellite, or other IP bearers).
Scalable Command and Control (C2) solution
We have developed our own proprietary C2 solution offering a comprehensive and scalable command and control platform for the Flexnet system. The user-friendly UMRAwin software has been developed to fit both Windows and Android platforms. In the smallest form a Flexnet system is controlled via a handheld Android device (UMRA Portable) communicating with the deployed sensor system. In larger system configurations UMRAwin software is installed on ruggedized computers/laptops as well as handheld Tablets with integrated radio solutions. Handheld devices can be combined with fixed C2 stations allowing both stationary operators and mobile patrolling guards to monitor and operate the system.
User-friendliness is a key component of a UGS system. As such the UMRAwin C2 software has been developed over many years in close collaboration with users world-wide to ensure an intuitive user-interface. An operator can be trained in less than 4 hours, including learning of basic deployment techniques, configuration and system operation.
The C2 solution comes with a fully developed API allowing easy integration with BMS systems and other external systems when and if required.
Exensor provided a live system demonstration of its products using a road surveillance scenario. A Land Rover Discovery vehicle was tracked down a route covered by a variety of Exensor’s sensors networked wirelessly back to the HQ.
“The network is self-forming and self-healing, if a camera goes down, the remaining sensors will find the shortest way to the command centre. We are developing tablet-based systems which allows the user the flexibility to work at or away from the main command centre, allowing system inspection and fault finding. We pride ourselves in having an extremely low false alarm rate which is key to the success of any unattended ground systems.” Phil Ashworth said.
“What are the aims of Exensor for the future?”
“Being part of the CNIM Group allows Exensor to develop and enhance our existing systems taking us into new areas such as Nuclear Power Station protection, CBRNE, Optical systems and nuclear threat detection. In addition, we can now provide major turnkey security solutions which include systems and software from multiple suppliers.” Phil Ashworth concluded.