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Aurora Insight: Mapping and Measuring the World’s Wireless Spectrum

By Rohit Sharma, October 22, 2019

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When we think of limited resources, most of us picture tangible elements of our natural world. Water is a shared resource. No single person or entity owns it, but it’s important to know how this essential element, which guides our livelihood and economy, is being used. The more we know, the better we’ll be at ensuring these resources are optimally used for our shared future. 

Wireless spectrum is a natural resource available to us all too. It exists as an elemental phenomenon across our universe. There is an abundant though finite range of the electromagnetic spectrum across different wavelengths, including visible light and invisible radio waves, that we’ve discovered can be used to communicate wirelessly. 

Similarly to water, we must contemplate how we use spectrum. If too many applications use the same or adjacent portions of spectrum, its utility and effectiveness degrades for all applications and users. This invisible element that makes wireless connectivity a reality impacts us all as consumers, whether we realize it or not. It enables the use of Bluetooth, WiFi, smartphones, and long-range wireless communications.

In fact, there is no scenario in our future where we use spectrum less than we have since Heinrich Hertz transmitted the first artificial radio waves in the 1880s. However, unlike other natural resources, we have yet to develop ways to measure and map the radio spectrum, nor have we been able to capture the quickly evolving existence and ever-changing usage of wireless spectrum in a way that enables more efficient utilization of this precious resource. 

Aurora Insight Co-founders Brian Mengwasser, Jennifer Alvarez, and Gus Moore spent the past decade designing and building airborne platforms, sensor systems, and satellites for communications, which all depend on the radio spectrum. Together, they’ve engineered generations of communications systems.

Aurora Insight Co-Founders

Jennifer Alvarez, Brian Mengwasser, and Gus Moore of Aurora Insight.

They’ve seen how critical knowledge of the radio spectrum is to harnessing it efficiently. And they’ve observed how the many gaps in existing spectrum measurement can result in negative business outcomes. Their deep expertise in this domain led them to create new technology that senses and maps spectrum and wireless activity on a global scale. 

The company aims to advance our understanding of spectrum by developing a systematic network of radio sensors on the ground, in the air, and in space which pairs with software to generate the first dynamic map of spectrum. Since Aurora Insight’s dynamic map contains key wireless infrastructure and usage information, it can tell us how many people are using smartphones in any urban area. It can also measure the availability of network across any provider and in any range of the spectrum. No one else can see this invisible texture of connectivity quite like team Aurora, down to each minute detail and with incredible accuracy everywhere on our planet. 

Aurora Insight Map

“Our tech ecosystem operates wirelessly,” shared Mengwasser. “More and more devices we interact with at work and in our daily lives rely on spectrum to move data and leverage the cloud. At the same time, the complexity and pace of wireless innovation is accelerating; our customers deserve a better solution than the legacy methods available today to determine if their wireless solutions are going to work as intended. We enable them to design to reality, get the most out of limited spectrum, and make better business decisions.” 

Prior to Aurora, all three co-founders forged substantial careers. Brian has long had a passion for disruptive technology fueled by his background in energy, satellites, and telecommunication. Jennifer has more than 25 years of experience in technology development and system deployment for aerospace and government applications. To cap it off, Gus has upward of 15 years of experience in developing space and airborne sensor systems across all domains of remote sensing. 

True initially led the seed investment in Aurora Insight in August 2017. Today, the company announced its plans to scale its data-as-a-service offering after spending the initial two years working with select customers around the world to define the product. 

Better use of spectrum unlocks infinite possibilities, and maps of all kinds have been key for explorers in every domain. We are thrilled to partner with the Aurora Insight team as they map the invisible radio underpinning of our digital economy. Read more from the Aurora team on Medium or view career opportunities