Cecil Green Enterprise Award 2006
SEG is honoring Peter Annan, David Leggatt, Steven Cosway, and Lowry Chua with the Cecil Green Enterprise Award for founding Sensors & Software, Inc. in 1988. The company was established to commercialize the ground-penetrating radar technology developed by A-Cubed, a research and development entity. With no outside funding and no salaries for the initial year, the four founders worked together to launch Sensors & Software. Today the company employs 50 people, has products working in 80-90 countries around the world, has a 30-40% market share globally for GPR equipment, and US$5-7 million in annual revenue.
Biography Citation for the Cecil Green Enterprise Award
When Peter Annan, Lowry Chua, Steve Cosway, and David Leggatt organized Sensors and Software in 1988, commercial versions of ground-penetrating radar had been in existence for roughly 14 years and had been used successfully in many parts of the world to solve a vast array of geologic and engineering problems. While GPR was a useful geophysical tool, the founders of Sensors & Software realized current versions of ground-penetrating radar instruments limited its use for many applications. The antennas were too heavy to easily survey ceilings and walls for example. The transmitter and receiver were analog, and data were recorded on a strip chart. While the strip chart speed was constant, the survey speed was not; thus, the tie between data and ground location was at best imperfect. Event markers on the strip chart were adequate for many surveys, but in some cases variation in ground speed made the data difficult to use. The paper record of a 100-ft interval going up an icy slope might be 10-ft long, but the same distance going down the slope might result in a paper record 2-ft long. Because the GPR data were not recorded in a digital format, it was not possible to enhance the data with processing technology developed by the seismic industry.
The founders of Sensors and Software believed that, in order to improve data quality and to expand the applications of GPR data, at least some of these problems needed to be resolved. Drawing on their field experience with radar surveys and the electromagnetic instrumentation technology developed for their predecessor company (A-Cubed), they set about developing an all-digital GPR system. Antennas were bistatic and light weight. Data were taken at discrete increments and could be recorded digitally on a variety of media. The digital data could be tied to a specific location along a line which made it possible to plot scaled profiles of data for better interpretation. It also made it possible to use the processing technology developed in the seismic industry, such as stacking to enhance signal-to-noise ratio, filtering to remove noise, 3D imaging, and much more.
Over the past 18 years, Sensors & Software has grown from four people working on a shoestring to a staff of 50- plus supporting customers in more than 80 countries. The growth was the result of several factors which included: better instruments that resulted in better data at greater depths; software that simplified field operation so that almost anyone could use the equipment and also provided rapid on-site results and interpretation; and instruments and software for specific applications, for example concrete imaging. However, the factor that may have contributed the most to the growth of the company has been the training, in workshops lasting 1-3 days, of hundreds of engineers, geologists, and geophysicists on the use and application of GPR. These workshops, conducted throughout the world, include the basic principals of GPR, GPR instrumentation, data analysis, and much more. While the workshops undoubtedly helped Sensors & Software grow, they also helped grow the intelligent use of GPR and thus the entire GPR industry benefited.