Industry sponsored graduate wins national prize for thesis

Charles Bibby, (Lady Margaret Hall 2004, Engineering Science; Worcester College 2010, DPhil in Engineering Science) was recently awarded the Sullivan Prize for ‘the best doctoral thesis submitted to a UK University, in the field of computer or natural vision’. The competition was organised by the British Machine Vision Association (BMVA). Charles, whose DPhil was sponsored by Servowatch Systems UK, received a certificate and £500.

Professor Ian Reid, Charles’s DPhil supervisor at the Department of Engineering Science, said: "My group has worked for a number of years on the problems of real-time visual tracking in video data, and so-called SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping), the idea that a vehicle or robot equipped with sensors can use the sensor data both to make a map of its surroundings and to localise itself with respect to that map.  Charles realised that both of these areas had direct relevance to his core interest of enhanced marine situation awareness through automation and ultimately his thesis made significant scientific contributions in both areas.  But not content with these separate contributions, he went further, combining SLAM and visual tracking into a prototype system that detects and follows all objects around a marine vessel using radar, localises the vessel to accuracy greater than GPS, and then intelligently controls a high-performance, custom-built pan tilt camera to acquire stable visual information of those objects in real-time.  It really was a remarkable achievement in the context of a D.Phil. and he richly deserves the recognition this award brings".

Charles BibbyCharles is currently working as the Principal Scientist with Servowatch Systems UK, one of the world's leading suppliers of technically advanced integrated ship control systems.  His work at Servowatch stems directly from his DPhil project.  This success for Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science has not only been recognised by the Sullivan Thesis Prize but also in the successful development and commercialisation of ideas.

Charles’ role at Servowatch involves two main application areas:

  • Coastal and ship based security systems: using radar detection and tracking, multiple pan tilt zoom cameras are controlled intelligently to acquire video footage of objects in the environment that may pose a threat of some kind.  Examples include: protecting military, commercial and pleasure vessels and protecting coastal features, such as harbour or port from potential threats, such as: pirates, terrorists or activists.  This system is currently being considered as a solution to security requirements at Weymouth for the 2012 Olympic sailing events.
  • Deployable camera systems:  Servowatch provides a camera system that is quickly deployable in the field, using a set of components that can be carried by hand.  This system automatically detects and tracks anything that moves using thermal cameras and/or radars, it then alerts the operator and records HD colour video footage of the object of interest.  Examples include: protecting military personnel from potential threats, and automatically acquiring video footage of objects of interest for TV broadcast, such as nature programmes.

Mr Steve Smith, Managing Director of Servowatch, said: "Several years ago the opportunity arose for us to start some investigatory work in this field and when Charles asked for some work experience and holiday work we quickly realised his potential and also how this could fit in with our future plans. No-one can fail to observe today that security, border protection, perimeter surveillance, visual monitoring and situational awareness is a very significant growth business worldwide and will continue to be a key element in the global arena".

Mr Smith added: "We are very proud to be associated with Charles' work in this field and his academic achievements".

Charles said: "As a boy I spent time helping my dad and granddad fix machinery and I think some of that rubbed off on me.  I was always interested in how things worked and would often take them apart to find out.  I think these early days had an influence over the subjects I studied at school, graduating in Engineering Science, and working in the field I am today".

Acknowledgements: BMVA and Servowatch.