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Battelle Ventures and Affiliate Invest $1.9M in Traffic Management Startup

The Aldis Guardian Eye is a vision-based traffic monitoring and control system.

Battelle Ventures, LP, and its affiliate fund, Innovation Valley Partners (IVP), have invested $1.9 million in Series A funding in Aldis, a traffic-management-technology company focused on energy efficiency that has a joint development agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Aldis will receive another almost $1.9 million based on milestones to be achieved. Tennessee-based fund Meritus Ventures, L.P., also participated in the round.

The investment was part of a combined $8 million in start-up financing to three energy-related companies. The other two funded companies are Ampulse, a “virtual” company that has been spun out of ORNL to commercialize the Lab’s flexible thin-film photovoltaic (PV) technologies; and Planar Energy Devices (Planar), a power-storage company developing thin-film batteries that is a spinout of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), as well as a licensee of both NREL and ORNL technology.

Aldis, Inc., formed in 2006, is developing a signal technology for traffic management—the Guardian Eye—designed to save lives, improve energy efficiency and alleviate problems experienced daily at poorly functioning intersections. The Guardian Eye replaces conventional, inductive loop technology with vision systems and heuristic algorithms creating automated, real-time, distributed traffic management.

The Guardian Eye is based on improving traffic throughput by optimizing decisions locally—at each signal—with only the information available at that signal. By using advanced image processing algorithms and a 360° image, the Guardian Eye can extract information on each vehicle passing through the intersection (it can also distinguish between cars, trucks and busses) as well as pedestrians, bicycles and animals. It then use this information to make intelligent decisions on how to optimize traffic flow. All optimizations are done in real time and are constantly adapting to new traffic conditions, day and night. In addition, Aldis can program the system to allow priority for public safety and emergency vehicles.

The Guardian Eye communicates with existing controllers which will retain the responsibility for intersection fail-safe operation. The existing infrastructure for powering and supervising lights is retained. Traffic statistics are available for down-loading for use in intersection planning and road management.

A 2002 study from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab attributed an annual delay of 296 million vehicle hours to poor signal timing alone. Aldis projects the Guardian Eye will increase throughput efficiency at each intersection by up to 40%, thereby saving considerable energy and time while also reducing vehicle deterioration.

Aldis plans to introduce Guardian Eye as Phase II of its deployment program in early 2008. Phase I, the Aldis Advantage Program, focuses on upgrading current incandescent signals to Aldis’ proprietary Aldis Eye signals (incorporating advanced engineering, enhanced LEDs and sensors for monitoring traffic) to improve energy efficiency while reducing total cost of ownership. The Aldis Advantage Program is available currently and is being implemented in several beta sites.

Battelle Ventures is a $220-million national fund that invests in technology companies at many early stages of development, from companies looking for seed or start-up capital through pre-revenue and post-revenue companies raising later rounds of financing. The fund focuses on three areas of investment: energy & environment, security and health care & life sciences.




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