On October 15, 2021, Alps Alpine Co., Ltd. acquired construction design certification for a 60GHz pulsed millimetre-wave sensor in compliance with Japan’s radio law. The certification complies with amendments to the Radio Act permitting the use of 60GHz pulsed millimetre-wave sensors and is the world’s first since the amendments were made on August 31, 2021. Alps Alpine is now able to mass-produce and distribute 60GHz pulsed millimetre-wave sensors within Japan’s domestic market. The company’s pulsed millimetre-wave sensors have already been selected by overseas automakers for use in applications such as tailgate kick sensors and detection of left-behind infants and delivery will begin as early as next year. Alps Alpine now plans to expand sales within the domestic automotive market, enhance product performance, and advance development and sales promotion to extend application to diverse uses outside the automotive market. In doing so, the company looks to deliver solutions contributing to people’s safety, comfort and emotion through a broad range of applications.
Millimetre-wave sensors are electronic components that emit radio signals of a frequency within the 30GHz–300GHz band and receive them reflected back off objects to determine the position, velocity, dynamic state and other parameters of those objects. In the automotive sphere, the sensors are expected to assist in the realization of autonomous driving functionality and contribute to safer, more comfortable mobility for vehicle occupants by helping to monitor driver status and other conditions inside the cabin. Outside the automotive domain, there are a wide range of potential applications, including gesture detection for smart home appliances, and use by nursing care and childcare facilities for ascertaining physiological data, such as heart and respiratory rates.
Among the frequency bands, 60GHz offers the widest bandwidth, enabling high detection accuracy. It can also be used for a wide range of applications in countries all over the world given the low level of restrictions on its use (use of the 79GHz band in Europe and the United States, for example, is restricted to automotive sensing outside the vehicle). For these reasons, global demand for 60GHz millimetre-wave sensors is on the rise. Some countries and regions, such as Europe and the United States, legislated approval of the use of the 60GHz band for this purpose before Japan.
There are two types of millimetre-wave sensor: frequency-modulated continuous wave radar (FMCW)1 and pulsed2. Due to the extent of the detectable range, FMCW millimetre-wave sensors have primarily been developed for detection applications on the vehicle exterior, helping enable autonomous driving functions. The pulsed type, while detectable range is short, achieves low power consumption and compact size, as well as good compatibility with other sensors, having low chance of interference. Application to detection inside vehicle cabins and diverse non-automotive uses is expected.
In Japan, use of the 60GHz band was approved under domestic radio legislation first for FMCW millimetre-wave sensors in January 2020. The effectiveness and potential for diverse application of the pulsed type were subsequently recognised and use of the band for pulsed millimetre-wave sensors was approved by amendments to the Radio Act on August 31, 2021. Alps Alpine therefore proceeded to acquire construction design certification for its 60GHz pulsed millimetre-wave sensor in compliance with domestic radio law – a world-first.
Alps Alpine’s pulsed millimetre-wave sensor has already been selected by overseas automakers for use in tailgate kick sensors and detection of left-behind infants and delivery will begin as early as next year. The certification allows Alps Alpine to mass-produce and sell its pulsed millimetre-wave sensor both overseas and in Japan.
Alps Alpine’s strengths in this field include more than six decades of knowledge about RF technology, which started with the development of products for radios soon after the end of the Pacific War, and more than 40 years of experience independently developing RF-related computer-aided engineering (CAE)4 technology, as well as evaluation facilities for frequencies between 60GHz and 90GHz, and the largest evaluation centre in East Japan, which can evaluate frequencies up to 100GHz.
According to a market research report5 published by Global Information, Inc. providing a global forecast through to 2025 for the millimetre-wave technology market by product (scanner systems and telecommunication equipment), the global millimetre wave market is growing at an average annual growth rate of 20.8% and is predicted to grow to US$4.7 billion (approx. 535.5 billion) in 2026 from US$1.8 billion (approx. 205.1 billion) in 2021.
Acquiring the certification allows Alps Alpine to now deploy sales promotion activities within Japan’s domestic automotive market. With the global millimetre-wave technology market expanding, Alps Alpine looks to harness its unique strengths in the RF field to further enhance the performance of the company’s pulsed millimetre-wave sensors, while also continuing development of FMCW millimetre-wave technology to meet the diverse needs presented by next-generation vehicles of the CASE age. Furthermore, development and promotion activities will be advanced to extend application to diverse uses outside the automotive market, such as in consumer electronics and industrial equipment. Through a broad range of millimetre-wave applications, Alps Alpine seeks to deliver solutions contributing to people’s safety, comfort and emotion.
- An FMCW millimeter-wave sensor determines the position or other parameter of an object by transmitting a continuous frequency-modulated signal and ascertaining the frequency difference between transmit and reflected signals.
- A pulsed millimeter-wave sensor determines the position or other parameter of an object by intermittently transmitting a signal at uniform intervals and ascertaining the time taken by the signal to reflect back off the object, as well as the frequency difference.
- Certification attesting to the conformance of specified radio equipment or product manufacturing processes to technical standards stipulated in the Radio Act. Only certifying organizations registered with the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications may issue this certification.
- Computer-aided engineering is a method employed from the initial stages of product development that involves using computers to evaluate product design issues.