The Internet of Federal Things

New Taxpayer Funded Patent Application for Thursday, August 26, 2021

Good Evening,

Today, USPTO published 181 patent applications that report taxpayer funding.  Here are the highlights.

The FedInvent Patent Application Report for August 26, 2021, is available.

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Electronic Baggage Locks Read This Patent 

Each week the FedInvent team digs through the federally funded patents and patents application to find inventions that are interesting and worth reading. Sometimes you find things in unexpected places, like the USPS patent for their Informed Delivery product with over 39 million users. This week a compelling Internet of Things (IoT) invention appeared.

This patent application for Electronic Baggage Locks starts by explaining that since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has increased the security at United States airports. This increased security includes the screening of traveler luggage for suspicious or illegal contents. Before January 1, 2003, if a locked piece of luggage was selected for additional security screening by TSA, the TSA officer would break the lock to access the bag. The TSA encouraged travelers to leave their baggage unlocked for inspection.

With the unlocked baggage regime in place, there went the electronics, the jewelry, designer sweaters, and other items of interest to nefarious actors with access to the luggage. It became a major five-finger-discount operation with lots of claims for stolen possessions. Disgruntled travelers were already unable to wear socks with holes anymore. Having items stolen from their locked bags wasn't helping matters. But sales of slip-on loafer picked up.

Next came the mechanical dual locks. Travelers who wanted to protect their property bought special locks. These locks had one mechanism for the traveler to lock and unlock their bag and another master lock that enabled the TSA to unlock and relock the bag with a universal master key.  Over 800 million dual-function locks are in the market. But when the TSA agent didn't have a master key, they just broke the lock. Back to square one.  And, it doesn't take much skill to duplicate the master key. The result?  More disgruntled travelers. Mechanical locks weren't working.

Enter the Internet of Things (IoT), the smartphone, and wireless communication such as Bluetooth, near frequency communication (NFC), RFID, Wi-Fi, or other near-range wireless communication protocol.  

A couple of lawyers who work at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Department of Homeland Security have a solution to the problem.  Mr. William J. Washington, II. Esq.  and Mr. Christian Jordan, Esq. filed a patent application for a novel (and digitally extraordinary) way to overcome the limitations of mechanical locks.

The Department of Homeland Security owns the inventions in  20210261272, "ELECTRONIC BAGGAGE LOCKS."  The next step is to commercialize this invention.  When TSA does, sign us up.

It works like this.  

Start with an Internet of Things (IoT) lock, a smartphone, and wireless communication such as Bluetooth, near frequency communication (NFC), RFID, Wi-Fi, or other near-range wireless communication protocol, a baggage scanner, and a database with information about the lock and the traveler.

  • Attach a "bag securing device" to your luggage. A bag securing device is an IoT-enabled lock. 

  • Register your IoT-enabled lock with the "travel carrier system," a system containing information about the traveler's identity and the lock. 

  • Check your bag.

  • TSA takes over from here.

  • A baggage handling scanner integrated with the travel carrier system is used to scan the IoT-enabled lock.

  • The travel carrier system electronically matches the traveler's information with the lock.

  • The travel carrier system transmits the unlock code to the baggage handling scanner. 

  • "Acceptance of the unlock code by the securing device causing un-securing of the securing device." Un-securing of the securing device means opening the IoT-enabled lock (patent mumbo-jumbo.)

  • The inventors include other features like setting a new code with your phone, issuing a time-sensitive unlock code that expires, and other tracking features. 

According to the most useful social media site, LinkedIn, Mr. Jordon is an Assistant Chief Counsel Information Technology Programs at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). William Washington is an Intellectual Property and Procurement Attorney at Transportation Security Administration.

Here's the good news. USPTO issued a Notice of Allowance for this patent on July 21, 2021. Congratulations to Mr. Washington and Mr. Jordon.


More Internet of Things Inventions

The Internet of Things (IoT) was a feature of three other applications this Thursday. 

One from the University of Arizona (20210264346) is a wearable device that collects biometric and temperature data from the wearer to monitor and reduce the impact of heat stress in mining. The Center for Disease Control funded the research.

Heat stress adversely affects a wide range of occupations. Heat stress injuries impact emergency response personnel, construction workers, agricultural workers, landscapers, road crews, mail carriers, and delivery workers in open or un-air-conditioned vehicles. Heat-related injuries also impact factory floor workers, military personnel, athletes, oil and gas workers, and miners.  Anyone who works anywhere other than an air-conditioned office is potentially subject to heat stress.

Heat-related incidents impose high costs on mining operations. According to government and independent sources, the total direct and indirect cost of a single debilitating worksite accident in the mining and construction industries can have a total economic impact of up to $5.4M.

The Internet of Implantable Medical Things (IoIMT)

Inventors at Northeastern University filed a patent application for an Embedded Networked Deep Learning for Implanted Medical Devices (20210259639), contributing to the Internet of Implantable Medical Things (IoIMT).  The invention uses a deep learning neural network such as a convolutional neural network (CNN) to classify health-related physiological signals and perform early prediction of critical events.

Brain-Machine Interfaces

And finally, DARPA funded an invention that is a bit metaverse, a bit IoT, and a little cyborg.  Inventors from Brown University and the University of California, San Diego filed a patent application for 20210260364, "HIGH DENSITY NEURAL IMPLANTS FOR BRAIN-MACHINE INTERFACES." High-density implants for brain-machine interfaces are a good thing (so far.)

Brain implants often referred to as neural implants, are devices that connect directly to the brain. They are usually placed on the surface of the brain or inserted into the brain's cortex. Modern brain implants are a means for establishing a biomedical prosthesis circumventing areas in the brain that have become dysfunctional after a stroke or other head injuries.

This invention features an implanted autonomous microchiplet capable of communicating with an epidermal skin patch. The skin patch has a transceiver and a demodulator, and an intermediate device communicates with the epidermal skin patch. The intermediate device is configured to send and receive neural signals for decoding by the epidermal skin patch.   One or more external devices can be linked to the intermediate device.  They include the ability to integrate smart effectors and prosthetic devices. Effectors are devices at the end of a robotic arm, designed to interact with the environment. Effectors can range from legs and wheels to arms and fingers. Access to the cloud adds this invention to the metaverse.

One Application, Five Departments, Six Grants

XploSafe from Stillwater, OK, is the applicant on 20210260562, "Sorbent and Devices for Capturing, Stabilizing, and Recovering Volatile and Semi-volatile Compounds."  The company specializes in the chemistry behind explosive detection and non-detonable explosive training aids for canines. XploSafe provides mission-critical solutions for Homeland Security, first responders, defense personnel, researchers, industrial workers, and users that handle unstable and hazardous compounds.

The inventors are:

  • Three professors from Oklahoma State University's Chemistry Department.

  • A research chemist at XploSafe.

  • A self-described "disruptive technology startup guy" who received his MBA at Oklahoma State.  

The inventors received federal funding from five departments:

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Department of Commerce (DOC)

     National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Department of Defense (DOD)

     Department of the Air Force 

          Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)

     Department of the Army

          U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC)

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

     National Institutes of Health (NIH)

          National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

Small Business Administration (SBA)

In June 2021, XploSafe was awarded the EPA Green Chemistry Challenge Award in the Small Business Category, recognizing a groundbreaking scientific contribution to green chemistry.

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A Safer Vehicle Seat

While we are on explosives, Pratt and Miller Engineering and Fabrication filed a patent application for an ENERGY ATTENUATING VEHICLE SEAT ASSEMBLY (20210261024). Energy absorption and dissipation of sudden acceleration blast events in armored personnel carriers and other armored vehicles have been an ongoing issue. The vehicle seat offers passive or active protection from impact and sudden acceleration due to accident or explosive events. The Army funded this research and development.

What’s Happening at the Y?

This week there are no patent applications that contain Y CPC classifications. The Patent Office uses Y CPC classifications to identify patents and patent applications containing inventions that may be useful in mitigating the impact of climate change. FedInvent found five applications for new battery technology and for enabling technology to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles that had no Y CPC classification. (Hmmmmm.) 

The essence of climate change innovation is getting rid of carbon dioxide.  FedInvent found an invention focused on reducing industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Inventors at Ohio University invented a "NOVEL MODULAR ELECTROCATALYTIC PROCESSING FOR SIMULTANEOUS CONVERSION OF CARBON DIOXIDE AND WET SHALE GAS" (20210262104).  This invention converts carbon dioxide and natural gas liquids into other chemicals or fuels.  The market for this technology includes:

  1. Fossil-based power generation where it provides a cost-effective way to can be used  converting a portion of their GHG emissions into valuable products to offset carbon capture costs; 

  2. The Oil and Gas industry where the process invented at Ohio University can remove ethane from wet natural gas; and, 

  3. Providing a synergistic source of bulk carbon monoxide to support the chemical manufacturing sector where carbon monoxide is used for synthetic chemical manufacturing and metallurgy. 

The Department of Energy funded this research.  Ohio University deserves a Y.

The Best of the Rest

There are nine synthetic biology inventions, including an invention from power geneticist George Church from Harvard (20210262011).  

There is a synthetic biology application for "GENETICALLY MODIFIED BACTERIAL CELLS AND METHODS USEFUL FOR PRODUCING TETRAMETHYL PYRAZINE" (20210261511).  Tetramethylpyrazine (TMP), also known as ligustrazine, is a chemical compound found in nattō and in fermented cocoa beans. TMP is a compound used in pharmaceuticals. It is also widely used in Chinese herbal medicine.  One study also found TMP as an active ingredient in sourdough starter.  The creation of TMP in a bioreactor will make it more widely available for research.

The Innovation Agenda

On August 25, 2021, the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Africa awarded the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF) a $48 million contract for overseas support activities. HJG will perform the work in Nairobi, Kenya; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Kampala, Uganda.  

HJF is a global nonprofit organization focused on military medicine and health. The foundation conducts a wide range of medical research. HJF has experience researching infections diseases including HIV, Ebola, anthrax, malaria, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, H1N1, and Zika. The foundation is working with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research on developing a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. HJF is one of the contributors to Operation Warp Speed. HJF's work in Africa is likely to lead to new patents and patent applications

Patent Applications By The Number

On Thursday, August 26, 2021, USPTO published 181 pre-grant patent applications that benefitted from taxpayer funding.  One hundred seventy-three (173) of the applications contain government interest statements.  Thirty-nine (39) applications have a federal government department as an assignee or applicant.

Patent Application Count By Department

Colleges and Universities, Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) entities, are applicants or assignees on 116 patent applications.

Thirteen (13) applications came from Federally Funded Research and Development Centers.

A company is an assignee on 25 patent applications.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and military health-related patent applications accounted for more than half of today’s publications.  The Health Complex — the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institute of Health, and other HHS agencies —accounts funded on 88 of the newly published patent applications.  The Military Health Complex — the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) — funded 12 patent applications.

Thanks for reading FedInvent. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you Tuesday.  

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.