Into Thin Air Leaving Only Dust

New Taxpayer-Funded Patents for August 31, 2021

Good Evening,

We're running a little late today as Hurricane Ida makes its way North. The tornado watch is over. The severe thunderstorm caused short power disruptions as the trees, and the electric and internet cables meet unexpectedly. The bucket trucks are everywhere, at least those not dispatched to New Orleans.

The FedInvent team identified 164 newly granted patents that cited federal funding or federal government assignees among Tuesday’s patent drop.  These patents are the work of 523 inventors. 

There are many interesting taxpayer-funded inventions this week, more than we can cover in the newsletter.  We encourage you to explore. 

If you want to head straight to the FedInvent Patent Report for August 31, 2021, click the button below.

Take Me to The FedInvent Report

Here are Tuesday’s highlights.  


There Ought To Be a Law — Read This Patent

The FedInvent team has been digging through the bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate.  All 2,702 pages of it.  We’re looking at the new research initiatives directly identified in the bill. There are also infrastructure-related science and technology policies that will require new R&D initiatives to deliver the mandated provisions in the bill.  One of the obvious places where there is lots of spending is on transportation.  The word vehicle appears in the bill over 750 times.

The transportation-specific mandates include the network of chargers for electric vehicles. There is a lot of road work. The Department of Transportation is funding research to assess the structural integrity and crashworthiness of limousines. One of the issues in the limousine research will evaluate the "perimeter seating" configuration in light of airbags, seatbelts, and other passenger protective devices. The perimeter limousine seating is the fun part of riding in a limousine on prom night. Front-facing seats are for the carpool.

One of the vehicle-related provisions in the bill is for Advanced Drunk and Impaired Driving Prevention Technology. The bill declares that the estimated economic cost for alcohol-impaired driving in 2010 was $44,000,000,000. That's $44B. Congress always includes all the zeros. Over 10,000 people are killed in drunk driving-related accidents each year.

The bill calls for the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to advise the Secretary of Transportation on regulations for implementing this technology in new cars within three years of the date of the bill. That puts the regulatory aspects on the calendar for 2024. NHTSA has ten years after the bill is signed to get this done or explain to Congress why not. The only chance for this technology to be widely installed in new cars is if Congress passes the law. 

The Advanced Drunk and Impaired Driving Prevention Technology mandate identifies three approaches for delivering the capability. The first is technology that passively monitors your driving to determine if they are impaired. (Bobbing and weaving?) The second option is in-vehicle to determine if the driver's blood-alcohol level is 0.08 percent or greater. This technology "passively and accurately" determines the driver's breath is above the legal limit. If so, it will disable the vehicle and prevent it from being driven. The third option is to provide a combination of both capabilities.    

Among this week’s taxpayer-funded patents is 11104227, "SENSOR SYSTEM FOR PASSIVE IN-VEHICLE BREATH ALCOHOL ESTIMATION," The invention is for a passive alcohol sensor system installed in the car that uses a fan to draw an air sample into a sensor to determine if the driver has an alcohol level above the legal limit. If the driver exceeds the threshold set on the sensor, it prevents the car from moving. The full implementation is much more complicated. The work was funded by NTHSA.

The patented invention requires two types of tests — a passive test as discussed above and an active test that is needed when conditions in the vehicle make the passive test unusable. The active test requires the driver to blow directly into the alcohol sensor.  The active test may be required when "environmental conditions within the vehicle may not allow accurate Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC) measurement. These conditions may include high wind from open windows or high temperatures after the vehicle has been standing closed in hot weather. 

The invention notes that "The HVAC system is preferably turned OFF or in a normal operating condition during the process. ...If the temperature is outside a normal temperature range, the method or processor determines that the set of testing conditions is outside of the normal range." Back to the active test.  So if you get into your hot car in Arizona or Florida, you'll need to do the active test. Then there's the matter of the windshield wiper fluid. Windshield washer fluid contains … alcohol. And the smartphone applications that let you start your car to warm it up on cold days. Will that be disabled as well?

Hand sanitizer has caused breathalyzer results to give falsely high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings. In the time of COVID, everyone is using hand sanitizer with high alcohol content. So if you take advantage of the hand sanitizer that now sits on the counter by every cash register in America, you may not be able to start your car?

Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, Inc. (ACTS) is the assignee on this patent.  ACTS is a nonprofit corporation funded by motor vehicle manufacturers and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2008, ACTS established a public-private partnership with the NHTSA to research and develop vehicle-integrated technologies to prevent drunk driving. The program is known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Program (DADSS). Since 2008, ACTS has received at least $34.5 million from NHTSA and another $50 million from 16 of its vehicle manufacturer member. The funding referenced on the patent covers the first $5 million. You can see the details on the rest of the federal funding at USA Spending here.

Easier Said Than Done

Getting in-vehicle alcohol sensors from test cars and into new cars will require many issues to be resolved.  Treating every driver like an irresponsible driver is one of them. In 2019, there were almost 229 million licensed drivers in the United States. This technology assumes 229 million people are committing a crime every time they start their car. Breathalyzer technology is associated with drivers convicted of DUI.

It's also unclear if auto manufacturers wanted to be viewed as spying on their customers even though they helped fund the research.  Installing these devices in rental cars poses the same problem. Driver's don't want their car rental company spying on them either. 

There are the Big Brother aspects of this invention. Documents on the current DADSS testing note, "Data is being collected from the DADSS alcohol sensors as well as from breath-alcohol reference sensors. Instrumentation also has been installed to track environmental conditions, vehicle system data, and test participant video. The data are uploaded via 4G and WIFI and stored in the cloud." These are always on sensors that continuously collect data about the driver and the environment in the vehicle. Once the in-vehicle alcohol sensors are in new cars will this tracking capability be turned on?  Will the data be shared with your insurance company? Then add the privacy issues and the government's purchase of location data. Will data about a driver's location be stored with the sensor data. There are so many privacy issues here; it's head exploding.

NHTSA says," the DADSS technology, if proven to be reliable and reproducible under diverse environmental and biological conditions, would represent a significant technological breakthrough in crash avoidance and a significant advance in driver monitoring technologies in vehicles."

This technology will go nowhere unless there is a legal mandate to install it. The Infrastructure Bill may be that legislation. There is the matter of the technology being passive and accurate.  There’s still work to do on that one.  The industry has time.  And then there are the 229+ million drivers.  It remains to be seen how 229 million drivers will feel about proving they aren’t breaking the law every time they start their car.


ICARUS ONLY DUST

Best Acronym of the Week So Far

Federal agencies have an affinity for ICARUS as an acronym for their programs. The National Science Foundation uses Index of Chamber Atmospheric Research in the United States. The Office of the Director of National IntelligenceIntelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) uses ICArUS for its brain science program called Integrated Cognitive-neuroscience Architectures for Understanding Sensemaking. This week ICARUS contribution is a patent from DARPA's Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems program.  

DARPA funded research by iconic Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) that led to 11107645, "FUNCTIONALITY CHANGE BASED ON STRESS-ENGINEERED COMPONENTS," This patent was tucked in between DHS's explosive threat mitigation invention (11105601) and Battelle's tracer ammunition designed to illuminate the sky (11105598). What is this thing? The rest of the ICARUS acronym gave it away.

Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems — On-Target Delivery and Disintegration Upon Stress-release Trigger. ICARUS-ONLYDUST. This technology enables unmanned aerial delivery vehicles to self-destruct after they've delivered their payload. 

The DARPA Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program developed self-destructing electronic components. Then in 2015, DARPA launched ICARUS, a program driven by a vision of vanishing air vehicles that can make precise deliveries of critical supplies and then vaporize into thin air, leaving only dust.


Isolation Units In Prefab Containers

In the time of COVID-19

Patents for inventions developed to fight COVID are starting to appear among each week's patents and patent applications. This week the Army added 11103406, "AIRBORNE INFECTIOUS DISEASE ISOLATION UNITS AND METHOD OF MAKING USING PREFABRICATED CONTAINERS." This patent provides a quick and low-cost method of building airborne infectious isolation units using existing commercially available container units. The patent outlines how to convert a standard intermodal shipping container into an isolation unit for patients. It provides complete instructions for adding a clear door, hospital bed, HEPA air circulation systems, and interior materials that can be easily sanitized between patients.  

The dimensions of the prefabricated containers used to build the isolation units match those of standard intermodal shipping containers (20 feet in length) or personal storage containers like PODS (16 feet in length). The patent explains that these units can be constructed and put in places where there is a need for more hospital beds.  

US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory is part of the Army Corps of Engineers. 

USACE filed its provisional patent application on Apr. 17, 2020. The non-provisional patent application was filed four months later on  August 13, 2020. USACE received its patent on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.    

The invention creates healthcare capacity during the COVID pandemic. The patent says that in May of 2020, the United States had over 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 88,000 deaths." As of today, the US has had 39,200,751 cases and over 640,121 deaths. This is one invention we hope we'll never need to use.

DOD publishes a Coronavirus Timeline on its response activities.  You can view it here.


The Best of the Rest

There are two interesting inventions among the week’s crop of HERD patents  (Higher Education R&D).  The first is from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically black college or university (HBCU) that is part of the NC state university system.  This invention, 11104611, is for using swine-waste biochar as a sustainable cement replacement material.  Sustainable improvements to cement are a high priority in cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and reducing environmental issues associated with pig farming.   

The Broad Institute received 11104937 for "CRISPR effector system based diagnostics."  One of the inventors is Dr. Eric S. Lander, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded Bavarian Nordic A/S  R&D to develop a vaccine for (11103570) Foot-and-Mouth disease.  Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious disease that can severely affect domestic and wild cloven-hoofed animals, including cattle, swine, sheep, goats, deer, and buffalo. Protecting American livestock is critical to the country’s agricultural economy and preservation of food supplies.  Bavarian Nordic A/S is a biotechnology company focused on cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases. The company is headquartered in Denmark.

The King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia received 11104632, "METABOLICALLY STABLE VANILLIN DERIVATIVES FOR THE TREATMENT OF HYPOXIA" This is a treatment for Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). According to NIH, Saudi Arabia has a population of 23.98 million. Studies have reported that SCD is a relatively common genetic disorder in this part of the world. The carrier status for SCD ranged from 2% to 27% of the population. Up to 1.4% of the Saudi population in some areas has SCD.


Bayh-Dole Scofflaws

This week we have two Bayh-Dole scofflaws.  The first is Northrup Grumman. Its patent 11108380, "Capacitively-driven tunable coupling has no funding information."  This is a quantum computing invention.  Our "who paid for it bet" is on the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.  

HRL Laboratories, LLC, in Malibu, California, received 11108211, "Optical injection-locked laser."  This one has us stumped. 


PATENTS BY THE NUMBERS

On Tuesday, August 31, 2021, 164 newly granted patents cite federal funding.  There are 157 patents containing government interest statements. Thirty-five (35) patents cite federal government agencies as an assignee or applicant.  Federal departments are referenced 189 times as the source of funding for the assignees and inventors.

This week there are 523 inventors.  The 503 American inventors come from 39 states.  The 20 foreign inventors come from 8 countries.  Seventy-nine (79) patents have one or more colleges or universities as an assignee. 

Patent Count By Department

Count by Technology Center

Patents organized by count and Technology Center where the patent was examined.

That's today's patent update.

We went a little long on today's newsletter while we're waiting for the tornado update. Our apologies to our Gmail readers if you get stuck with the Read More button.

Thank you for reading FedInvent.  See you Thursday with this week’s taxpayer-funded patent applications. (Unless we’re wandering around the Emerald City.)

The FedInvent Team

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About FedInvent

Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere from Federal R&D. FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. We follow the taxpayer money and the inventions.