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April 24, 2017 Issue



Gas and Chemical Sensor Microchips providing Real-Time Environmental Monitoring Capability to Smart Devices, Wearables, IoT Devices, and Smart Home Systems



Dr. Abhishek Motayed

Founder and President


N5 Sensors, Inc.



Abhishek Motayed



Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - April 24, 2017


CEOCFO: Dr. Motayed, what is the idea behind N5 Sensors?

Dr. Motayed: At N5 we leverage smart materials and cutting-edge engineering to bring smart sensors that provides gas detection capability for next-generation of smart and connected devices. We wanted to develop reliable gas sensor chips that can bridge the gap that exists between need for environmental detection in smart devices and the mature sensor technologies that are available in the market.


CEOCFO: What can the new sensors do? 

Dr. Motayed: The sensors that we have developed are essentially gas and chemical sensors inside a microchip. Think of a microchip doing computations and so forth in your cell phone and laptop and whatever other devices you have! Now imagine a chip like that inside all those devices that now have the ability to detect different air toxins or different air qualities features in your near surrounding. That means using that you can now get real-time data on what is happening to your environment and how that affects or impacts your health, safety and well-being. Whether you are in your home, working at your office, running outside, working outside if you are an industrial worker; our sensors can provide individuals with real-time information on the dangers present in the environment and also the long-term impacts on being in such environments. Information of that nature can not only improve individual safety, but also can have profound impact on our long-term health.


CEOCFO: How are you able to accomplish this? What needs to be in that chip? 

Dr. Motayed: We have designed and perfected an architecture that allows us to combine the high performance of the nanomaterials with high throughput manufacturing that is commonly used in semiconductor manufacturing. We combine them together to produce the ultra-sensitive and very specific micro scale chemical sensors. We put all of that together into a tiny chip, the size of smaller than a postage stamp. Basically, that is the heart of our chemical sensors. Using all of the innovations that we have done in different things like sensor design, materials, manufacturing, packaging and algorithm development, we have developed a really smart robust sensors, but at a price point of a consumer device. Traditionally, gas detection technology has been for industrial use: high cost, high maintenance and what we have done is to bring industrial grade detection capability to regular use – such as personal devices, smart home systems, and smart offices.


CEOCFO: Have similar concepts been tried?

Dr. Motayed: Yes. We do have competitors in the market. What differentiates us from the competitors is the innovative architecture, which is a patented IP, that we have licensed it from one of the universities. This architecture allows us to build sensors that are very selective, precise, and robust. It provides the user with more reliable data and a longer operating sensor at a lower power and a single chip can read multiple gasses. What that means for the end user is that our technology can provide timely data and they do not have to service or maintain the sensors frequently. If you deploy our sensors in a system, such as a smart home, it can serve in multiple ways. It can provide information on long-term trends, such as how daily activities affect the air quality inside your home. However, it can also provide immediate alarms for dangerous situations. For example, if you have a carbon monoxide buildup or if you have a natural gas leak. That is because our individual sensors can do multiple gasses, so the end user is provided with more information and more value.


CEOCFO: Are you still in the development stage? Do you have products commercially available? 

Dr. Motayed: We have a product pipeline. Some of the designs are still in the development or prototyping stage. Some are more advanced. We have some that are commercially available for customers to evaluate and design their systems around them. Some are still going through testing and evaluation, so we have a product pipeline with products in different stages of development. 


CEOCFO: How do you get attention from the appropriate people? Have people been looking for something like this? How do you get to the mainstream? 

Dr. Motayed: We have a strategy. This is a new technology. In order to gain traction we have to educate different tiers of your customers and end-users. We have gone out to trade shows and demonstrated and exhibited our technology to get customer traction, to get customers through the door, show them what it can do when they integrate our sensors into their systems. Then we have done several evaluations with interested customers, which led to further engagements. Our business model is almost an OEM model, where it is essential to engage the customer but also it is important to bring in the end-user in the loop. This ensures we create a demand for the end-product and functionality, which in turn will create the demand for our components. We have been working with different customers, and end users at the same time to validate the need for these types of sensors and products and the data this product provides to the user.


CEOCFO: What have you learned as you have started to work with different people? What has changed from your original concept?

Dr. Motayed: Definitely, a lot has changed since the early days of N5. One of the cornerstones of lean startup methodology and lean manufacturing is that you develop a minimum viable product with minimum feature sets, as fast as one can and with the least cost possible, and get it to the customers, have them evaluate it and then listen to the feedback and iterate rapidly. Some of the things we have learned from our customers are things like what kind of packages are needed for the chips for different applications, what type of detection capability, operational boundaries, which are all essential information for success of a product. For example, when we started this we were thinking of packing-in more sensors in one device and the logic was more is better. However, it turned out that most customers only wanted one or two gas sensors on one single chip! Insights into the customers’ needs and what the market really wants is essential in developing a new product.


CEOCFO: Are you funded for your next steps? Are you seeking partnerships or investment?

Dr. Motayed: We have funding from the US government for our R&D projects. Currently, we have several SBIR programs from the Dept. of Homeland Security and NASA. Recently, we have raised a Seed Round of investment with Blu Venture Investors leading the round. However, for the next staging of scaling up, and addressing different markets and applications, we are looking for strategic partnerships and funding. That funding will help us execute the milestones needed for the next stages of growth, scaling-up of our production, and for products that we have in the pipeline.


CEOCFO: Why does N5 Sensors standout?

Dr. Motayed: N5 Sensors’ mission is to make the world a safer place using our smart sensors. We are positioned perfectly to make a big impact into the next generation of IoT devices, connected devices, smart home systems; with our patented, smart gas sensor technology that will enable the desperately-needed missing environmental sensing modality on all of these devices. This represents a significant market and business opportunity, if you consider billions of connected devices that are going to be manufactured, and installed in smart homes, smart cars, wearables, and industrial IoT platforms. N5 Sensors’ technology can be deployed in all of these applications, which not only represents a significant return on investment for the investors, but also a tremendous growth opportunity for N5 and the technology to address new and emerging markets worldwide.


“At N5 we leverage smart materials and cutting-edge engineering to bring smart sensors that provides gas detection capability for next-generation of smart and connected devices.”
- Dr. Abhishek Motayed


N5 Sensors, Inc.



Abhishek Motayed


N5 Sensors, Inc.

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