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Google Ripple, the new open-source radar API, points at a flourishing new industry

Google Ripple, the new open-source radar API, points at a flourishing new industry
10 Jan, 2022

Last week on Friday, Google announced a new, open-source radar API (application programming interface) called Ripple.  

An evolution of the company’s Soli radar project, Ripple seemingly takes a shot at expanding the use cases of general purpose radars to a wide range of things -- with the latter being a nascent but burgeoning industry right now. 

Case in point: a December 2021 Fortune Business Insights report stated that the global radar sensor market stood at around $8.5 billion in 2019, but is slated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.7 percent to reach close to $36 billion by 2026. 

A key factor of this growth is tipped to come from the automotive industry, and Google’s nascent Ripple project is no different.  

Also read: Google loses patent lawsuit to Sonos

Reports state that Ford is a part of the builders of the Ripple API standard for general purpose radars. The company has its own Co-Pilot 360 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) platform, which makes use of multiple, tiny radar sensors to lend a host of assisted driving features to its cars. 

General purpose radars are a sub-division of navigational radars, and use the same essential working principle of a radar, but with modified receptors. This helps these general purpose radars to be used in a wide range of applications, of which close-range proximity mapping linked to processing chips for further actions is one. 

The latter is the core idea being implemented by automakers around the world. Israeli company MobilEye, now a part of Intel’s umbrella, is building chips with multiple, tiny general purpose radar antenna units as part of its ADAS offerings. The company’s clients include some of the biggest names of the automobile sector, such as Audi, BMW, General Motors and Honda. 

It is this that Ford appears to be hinting at, with Ripple. In a statement sent to The Verge, Jim Buczkowski, director of Ford’s electrical and electronic systems research and innovation department, said, “We are researching how to use interior radar as a sensor source to enhance various customer experiences beyond our driver-assist technologies that use advanced exterior radars today. A standard API, with semiconductor industry participation, will allow us to develop software independent of the hardware sourcing and give the software teams latitude to innovate across multiple radar platforms.” 

In other words, Ripple wants to be a unifying software platform that powers a certain section of autonomous cars of the future. It is one of the ways in which Google can play a significant role in the future of cars, which is increasingly merging into the technology sector. But, Google isn’t quite closing the door on other sectors, either. 

The same was hinted upon in a statement on Twitter by Ivan Poupyrev, director of engineering and head of technical projects for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. He said, “General purpose radar is a key emerging technology for solving critical use cases in a privacy-respecting way.” 

While not in a very implicit way, the statement suggests the application of the Ripple API in projects such as gauging a user’s inputs without a camera or a microphone. This, in turn, could find applications in absolutely everything -- from smartphones to public surveillance systems.