Dec 03 2009
What the brain can’t see . . .
Succeeding in business means being on the cutting edge.
Guy Cramer, with HyperStealth Biotechnology, has taken that philosophy and run with it, to the point that his firm’s cutting edge camouflage designs are used by armies around the world.
“It’s all about intellectual property rights,” he remembers his granddad, Donald Hings, telling him.
Hings developed the walkie-talkie for the Canadian army in the Second World War, for which he was given the Order of Canada, before founding his own research company, Electronic Labs of Canada in Burnaby.
As a research assistant to his granddad, Cramer obviously picked up on the strategy.
“He basically taught me everything that he had learned in his life.”
After first developing a passive negative-ion generator that helped with athletic or physical endurance, Cramer changed direction in 2002 after posting an online critique of the Canadian military’s efforts at camouflage clothing. Cramer said he could do better with some $100 software.
King Abdullah II of Jordan saw that posting, asked him to create his own pattern for the Jordanian army and police – and launched Cramer into the world of clothing subterfuge.
He soon had the edge in producing the most concealing patterns that mimic the natural world.
Using “fractal algorithms,” Cramer used mathematics to reproduce patterns in nature. Fractals refer to patterns that are replicated at various sizes in the natural world. For instance, the shape of a single fern leaf is repeated in the larger shape of the fern plant itself.
By studying the mathematical relationships of various shapes, and through trial and error, he was able to reproduce those in digital form.
If those geometric patterns are repeated as they are in nature, the larger shape will become invisible to the brain, he explains.
“The brain will glance right over those if the colour is correct.”
In 2004, Cramer learned about U.S. Lt. Col. Tim O’Neill, who developed digital camouflage in the 1970s. But neither O’Neill nor the U.S. knew how to use computers or the math to produce the elusive camouflage.
So the two teamed up and started HyperStealth Biotechnology.
“You have the design elements that we’ve been looking for all these years and I’ve got the research you need,” Cramer recalls.
He’s worked with all four U.S. services, but his most recent coup was the contract to provide the design for the Afghan National Army provided by the U.S. forces.
That’s 1.1 million uniforms. “We get a royalty for every yard of fabric that’s produced with that pattern on there.”
Cramer notes it’s important for the Afghan National Army to have its own attire, because Taliban often use old uniforms in order to infiltrate into the army.
The ANA currently has darker uniforms than those of the International Security Assistance Force because it does a lot of its fighting at night. The Afghans don’t want to be mistaken for foreigners either.
“They don’t want to be confused with foreign troops that are not very respected there,” he said.
HyperStealth also has a contract to produce camo design for Slovakian jets and has 8,000 designs under copyright, with more than 800,000 uniforms and 3,000 military vehicles using HyperStealth camouflage patterns.
It’s producing designs or offering advice to 29 countries.
But HyperStealth is hyper lean.
Cramer still operates out of his home office in Maple Ridge though he’s soon to move his prototype production to Whonnock elementary. O’Neill is still based in the U.S. The pair operate the company, producing designs and prototypes and selling around the world.
Annual sales from his basement office in Maple Ridge, soon to move to the old Whonnock School, are between half million and a million.
But next year revenues could be more than that, thanks to another application of the technology.
HyperStealth has a contract with Gore Tex to produce hunting patterns. HyperStealth came up with designs that would apply to the particular vision of each prey animal. Gore Tex has prepaid for seven such designs. During field testing, Cramer noted the animals walked to within metres of him.
And Defence Research and Development Canada, at the army research base in Medicine Hat, Alta., recently awarded HyperStealth the contract for designing urban camouflage for Canadian forces in Canadian cities.
Other countries currently using HyperStealth patterns which have been printed for uniform trials: United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Papa New Guinea, India, Chile, Colombia and a few others we are not allowed to mention at this time.
Cramer notes though, it takes a while for the money to roll in because the royalties don’t start flowing until the uniforms are produced.
HyperStealth also developed the pattern for the plastic wrap that the company Invisible Towers applied to four cellphone towers in the U.S.
The also have a deal with the U.S. Department of the Interior which is doing visual mitigation of large oil storage tanks throughout the U.S. and instead of painting them a monotone, they’re painting them with computer generated designs mimicking the natural environment.
“There are a lot of oil tanks out there.”
© Copyright 2007 Maple Ridge News