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Infrared firms face off in smartphone market

By   /   Monday, August 18th, 2014  /   Comments Off

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Affordable thermal imaging is coming to a smartphone near you, with the South Coast emerging as a technology hotspot.

Goleta-based Tyrian Systems, the company founded by longtime infrared entrepreneurs Bill Parrish and Tim Fitzgibbons that has raised $28.3 million, is changing its name to Seek Thermal and will offer a camera that plugs into smartphones to provide the same kind of infrared imaging previously used by firefighters and soldiers.

The Seek Thermal device will go head-to-head against Flir Systems’ Flir One, a $349 accessory that the company released last month. Flir is based in Oregon but maintains major operations in the Tri-Counties.

Parrish and Fitzgibbons founded Tyrian Systems and raised $20 million in late 2012 with plans to commercialize the technology advances made at Raytheon Vision Systems, coupled with the chip manufacturing prowess of FreeScale Semiconductor, one of the largest chipmaking firms in the United States that was spun out of Motorola. The pair disclosed their plans in a report in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 18.

The founders at Tyrian have been involved in some of the most prominent infrared sensor companies in Goleta over several decades, including Indigo Systems, which was sold to Flir in 2004 for $185 million. After the sale, Parrish and Fitzgibbons had begun talks with Raytheon about starting a new company. Flir sued, igniting a years-long court battle that ended when Parrish and Fitzgibbons were eventually awarded a $39 million settlement against Flir.

The Flir One unit wraps around a phone like a case and displays brightly colored images of different heat levels in a scene. “Based on technology that was formerly reserved for the military, Flir One is the first in a new generation of affordable thermal imaging devices designed to inspire imaginative and innovative uses by consumers,” Flir CEO Andy Teich said in a news release when the product was announced.

The Seek Thermal unit is expected to plug into the bottom of a phone and will sell for about $100 less than the Flir device. A company spokeswoman said it will also have higher resolution than Flir’s device.

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