Most people don’t realize that the Global Positioning System (GPS) does much more than provide location services via satellite. GPS also serves as a highly specific timekeeper that can track each billionth of a second across the planet. But experts across industries are raising a red flag that the GPS system is susceptible to collapse, which could have catastrophic global consequences.
Xairos is attacking this not-so-small issue with a novel quantum clock synchronization timing service that can provide up to 1,000x more accurate timing than GPS. Xairos is conducting pilot programs with NASA, the US Navy, and the US Air Force to test its technology, which has the potential to reinvent time itself. We reached out to co-founder and CEO David Mitlyng to learn more about Xairos’ goals and why surpassing current GPS timing is imperative for future technology.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
In your own words, how would you describe xairos?
Xairos is building a global timing service to replace timing from GPS. When people think of GPS, they think of maps, but in reality, the majority of its $1.4 trillion in economic benefit is as a clock for the world. All communication, data, financial networks, and even power grids rely on timing from GPS. With our exclusive quantum technology, we can provide a timing service that is orders of magnitude more accurate and secure, enabling edge computing, fifth-generation wireless (5G) and sixth-generation wireless (6G) communications, self-driving vehicles, and the quantum internet.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
We have the key ingredients for a successful startup: a breakthrough technology ready for commercialization that solves a major problem. My background is space. I worked at major satellite companies for two decades before joining a startup in 2015, BridgeComm, that commercialized space-based optical communications. This experience with building complex space and optical systems, coupled with our understanding of the market need, was the genesis for forming Xairos in 2019.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
My co-founder, Dr. James Troupe, is the inventor of our quantum clock synchronization technology and a quantum scientist with two decades of experience. I originally learned about quantum communications while working on optical communications, which is similar. We have complementary quantum and space experience as well as the research, engineering, business skills, and connections to build the team. Just as important, we also have a shared vision for the company. We will expand the engineering and quantum team with a focus on building our commercial product in the near term while working with partners that can help us scale and get to market quicker over the next year.
What problems do you see with the current time and location systems?
All timing comes from GPS, which is inaccurate (by 30 nanoseconds in the best case) and insecure (with weak signals prone to jamming and interference). That is good enough for fourth-generation wireless (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) networks and basic route navigation on open roads. But that is not nearly good enough for 5G, 6G, or self-driving vehicles in urban environments. GPS is designed and maintained by the US military, and there is no incentive for improving it for these commercial applications.
How is xairos transforming the timing service industry?
Our global timing service will be much more accurate and resilient to outages and designed to meet the needs of future commercial networks. We believe that without this timing service, we won’t see 6G networks, self-driving vehicles, and the quantum internet.
What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?
There is already a mature market for timing and synchronization hardware providers, including Microchip Technology, Ericsson, IBM, Cambium Networks, ADVA, and Empowered Networks. But their hardware relies on timing signals from GPS, so they could be partners for us. There are also new position and navigation startups like Satelles, TrustPoint, Inc., Xona Space Systems, and Orolia (who recently got acquired by Safran). But they are focused on augmenting GPS position, while we are focused on timing. Our exclusive patented quantum clock synchronization technology gives us an accuracy and security advantage over any aspiring competition.
Can you tell us more about your customer traction and contracts from nasa and the us air force?
We have good traction with nearly $500,000 in small business innovation research grants from the US Air Force and NASA, and we are working on follow-ups with them and other government agencies. These study-phase contracts to evaluate quantum timing for satellite constellations and lunar and deep-space missions give non-dilutive funding to support our commercial development.
How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We intend to build our commercial product and business. The primary use of funds is to expand the team and facilities and package our lab setup into a rack-mounted timing unit that can synchronize local fiber networks. We can then deliver this for a commercial pilot project, building commercial revenue and relationships ahead of a Series A raise that will fund our first satellite.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Timing is a very large market in need of disruption. Investors may think this is a niche market (it is already a multibillion-dollar market projected to grow to $460 billion by 2031). They may think that GPS signals are free (not for the enterprise users that buy the timing hardware and backup necessary to maintain stability against outages) and that it is good enough (it is not accurate enough for 5G, 6G, or future data networks, and it is vulnerable to outages, as highlighted by Russia’s jamming of GPS in Ukraine). Some believe that GPS has been the most valuable space venture in history, but a better commercial solution is needed.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Our goal is to have a global timing service with $200 million in revenue (readily achievable with a few satellites and small market penetration) in five years. A likely exit is either acquisition by a telco or data provider or initial public offering. But only then, once our global timing service is in place, can we realize our true goal: unlocking the applications and lucrative markets that don’t exist today, like the quantum internet, oil and mineral exploration, and self-driving vehicles.
We look forward to seeing where David and his team take the company. Xairos is currently raising on Spaced Ventures.
About: Yasmin Sharbaf
Yasmin is passionate about the intersection of business, art, and science. Prior to KingsCrowd, Yasmin worked on a cryptocurrency investing research project for Wellesley College Investment Office where she assessed the risks and rewards for university endowment investment into cryptocurrency. She has also previously worked in a neuroscience lab studying language and memory of songbirds. Yasmin’s dream is to make investing and financial education accessible to everyone. In her free time, Yasmin enjoys going on adventures, learning new languages, and exploring different cultures. Yasmin studied Neuroscience and Studio Art at Wellesley College.