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Near Field Magnetics
Published Thursday, January 12, 2017
by Matthew J. Mowry

Dave McManus was visiting his mother at her gated community in Florida when he saw her car had a barcode on the passenger window that was read by a sensor to open the gate. “They all hated it. It looked bad, and it didn’t work well,” he says, particularly during inclement weather. Sheryl Tessier, a co-worker, heard a similar complaint from her grandmother, though her gated community used access cards.

This and other conversations about frustrations with RFID, or radio frequency technology, eventually led to the founding of Near Field Magnetics in Milford in 2010, which is run by McManus, CEO; Sheryl Tessier, co-founder and vice president of customer service; and Ron Ham, founder and vice president of engineering.

Near Field Magnetics developed encrypted wireless sensor technology that collects data and transmits it for further analysis, McManus says, including in environments hostile to radio frequency (RF) applications as it uses magnetic fields instead of electromagnetic waves to communicate between sensors and readers.

“Our sensors are aimed at the Internet of Things in radio wave hostile environments,” he says, explaining that much like a mirror reflects light, RF signals can be reflected or distorted by metal, liquids and other materials.

The company, which holds patents in the United States, Canada and Korea, is marketing its technology for a variety of uses, including controlling access to buildings and gated communities and tracking items regardless of weather, nearby metal or other sources that can interfere with radio wave technologies. The technology has a range of up to 15 feet.

Near Field Magnetics technology is designed to connect to existing access control networks, power feeds and control panels, and is small enough to be keep on a keychain.  “What excites facility managers more is they are able to see who came out in case of an evacuation,” McManus says.

Magnetic cards more commonly used now to control access to buildings have to be physically waved in front of a reader. Near Field Magnetics’ devices can be read through pockets and purses. “I know who got out of a building and who may still be in the building,” he says.

Radio frequency devices can also be a security issue, McManus says, as they can be hacked and read up to 20 or 30 feet away. Near Fields Magnetics sensors are encrypted and work on a shorter range.

Near Field Magnetics is now developing sensors to track firefighters in burning buildings and relay their vital signs to those coordinating efforts outside the building.

The company was a semi-finalist in this year’s 43 North Competition, a startup competition in New York and a finalist in the 2016 Tech Out competition held by the NH High Technology Council.

McManus, the only full-time employee, did not start running it full time until 2015. Seven others work part time. The company is now self-funded and with help from friends and family, and the owners are working on a formal seed round. McManus expects sales to reach $20 million in the next five to seven years and the company is examining licensing its technology.

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