A world-class sensor


Using revolutionary radar technology, NOVELDA has developed one of the world’s most sensitive sensors. The chip measuring three by three millimetres can be used for everything from measuring movements from a baby breathing to saving enormous amounts of electricity from laptops and lights.

It is small but super smart and highly sensitive. The sensor can output more than 16 million signals per second and is regarded as being the world’s most reliable sensor for detecting human presence.

Developed as an ultra-wideband (UWB) radar system, this tiny chip provides a level of precision that no other sensor in the same cost or size classes can match.

“The main point of this radar is that it is extremely sensitive. It registers the slightest sign of presence such as a person’s breath or heartbeat, right down to millimetre level,” says Eirik Hagem, the commercial director at NOVELDA.

Better than Bluetooth

Today, this Telemark company is a pioneer in ultra-wideband, a wireless technology that is expected to become as widespread as Bluetooth. From offices in Hong Kong, San Jose in the US, Yokohama in Japan, and Kviteseid, Oslo and Trondheim, the company has built up a world leading team comprising 80 employees with niche expertise in ultra-wideband.

“Ultra-wideband has a precise understanding of space and direction, which means it has a broad range of applications,” says Tove Elisabeth Lutdal, marketing director at NOVELDA.

It makes the technology more secure and seamless to use. UWB can be used for everything from unlocking cars, homes, and hotel rooms with your mobile, to regulating air and lights with sensors.

From research idea to international markets

The idea of creating a radar system compressed on to a chip was conceived at the University of Oslo in 2004. The four founders had backgrounds from business, innovation, and research on micro and nanoelectronics.

“We wanted to move everything onto a single chip to improve performance, features, and price, and to reduce energy consumption and provide new applications in a single place,” says co-founder Dag T. Wisland, the CTO at NOVELDA and a professor at the Department of Informatics at the University of Oslo.

However, the journey from research idea to patent and production at scale has taken many years of development and required several rounds of raising capital. In total, more than NOK 1 billion has been invested in the company since 2004, of which around NOK 160 million has been public grants and innovation funds.

Wisland says the support from Innovation Norway has been vital in driving forward innovation and development in the company.

“We started with research that was pretty experimental, with a lot of uncertainty and high risk. Not every country has such support programmes, so we are very grateful for the support and cooperation of Innovation Norway. It has also afforded us predictability and the opportunity to get where we are today.”

Lenovo on its customer list

Today, it has become a chip measuring three by three millimetres that can easily be integrated into everything from consumer electronics to smart home products, power sensors, and sleep monitoring.

“The entire point is that we have managed to produce a sensor that is both reliable and precise, while also being tiny and cheap, and therefore easy to scale up,” says Hagem.

This makes the technology attractive. In 2019, NOVELDA’s sensor was launched in the product ‘True Presence’ by a German company called Steinel. The sensor is regarded as being the world’s most reliable motion sensor for regulating air, lights, and heat.

The company’s biggest commercial breakthrough so far came in 2021 when the world’s largest PC manufacturer Lenovo launched the sensor in six laptops in its ThinkPad series.

“There is a big difference between having the technology evaluated to having it launched in a million units. Developing a demo is 10 per cent of the job, while 90 per cent is validation and production. Having Lenovo as a customer is therefore a very big step for us,” says Hagem.

Testing the technology in new markets

Reidun Løite Myhra, funding advising at Innovation Norway, has a lot of faith in the company.

"NOVELDA is a good example of a growth company targeting an international market and is succeeding in what it is doing," says Myhra.

She believes it is important to stimulate this type of initiative and development, both to support innovative technology and to promote Norway abroad.

“The competition technology companies face is fierce, although NOVELDA has become a pioneer in its field and is setting a good example for Norwegian technology internationally.”

Going forward, the company will develop the sensor further and test the technology in new markets. Together with Apple, Samsung, and Facebook, it wants to define a new global standard for UWB, under the leadership of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest technical professional organisation dedicated to advancing technology.

  • Innovation loans
  • Grants for innovation contracts
  • Ekstraordinary innovation grant 2021