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This article was published on June 6, 2016

This week in patents: Boeing plays with fire, NASA toys with Terminator’s healing properties, and more

This week in patents: Boeing plays with fire, NASA toys with Terminator’s healing properties, and more
Deepak Gupta
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Deepak Gupta

Deepak is the founder of patent services firm PatentYogi, a new kind of patent services firm that simplifies the patent process for the inve Deepak is the founder of patent services firm PatentYogi, a new kind of patent services firm that simplifies the patent process for the inventors across the globe. They provide free patentability search service for individual inventors and startups. He also runs a YouTube channel, PatentYogi, where he publishes videos on patents. For interesting daily updates on patents, check their Instagram and Facebook.

This week, the US patent office issued 6896 patents. Each patent adds a little something new to the human knowledge base.

As we can’t list all six thousand, the PatentYogi team has selected the five most interesting patents.

Google patents design of its phones for Project Ara

Patent Number: US D757,724

Project Ara is a modular smartphone from Google that is made of a central module board with which individual modules that can be connected. The phone will include a structural frame that holds modules of the owner’s choice, such as a display, camera or an extra battery.

The owner’s can choose location of various modules on the structural frame. However, the patented design shows a particular placement of these modules. This indicates that Google might be planning to sell a base phone with pre-packaged modules as shown in the design patent. Thereafter, the owner’s may replace individual modules if they malfunction or when an upgrade is required.

The phone will provide longer lifetime cycles for the handset, and potentially reducing electronic waste.

Boeing plans to play with fire

Patent Number: US 9,345,916

Boeing patents a high-tech fire suppression system to air transport Li-Ion batteries. Boeing seems to be inspired by Ayn Rand’s quote:

I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips.

The global market for lithium-ion batteries is rapidly expanding. With the expansion of the lithium battery market, the need for air transport of the batteries is also expected to grow. However, lithium batteries are identified as dangerous goods. Till date, no acceptable single best approach, methodology or system for dealing with all types of fires have been identified. International Air Transport Association (IATA) provides strict regulations applicable to air shipments of lithium-ion batteries.

Boeing’s fire suppression system is based around a fire suppression pack. The pack is box with eight radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers secured to the exterior of the pack with one RFID reader at each corner.

The pack is positioned at the center of a stack of packaging boxes that contain lithium batteries. Up to twenty six packaging boxes are arranged in a three dimensional array stack around the fire suppression pack. Each of the packaging boxes has RFID transponder tags positioned at the eight corners of the box. Each RFID transponder tag is programmed to transmit an activation signal to the RFID readers on the fire suppression pack in response to the RFID transponder tag sensing an undesirable occurrence in the stack of packaging boxes.

The undesirable occurrence could be a fire, an explosion, a rapid rise in temperature, a rapid change in pressure, the presence of smoke, the presence of toxic gas, or other similar dangerous conditions.

On receiving an activation signal transmitted by an RFID transponder, a fire suppressant is communicated to eight nozzles on the fire suppressant pack. The nozzles discharge the fire suppressant from the nozzle orifices at the eight corners of the fire suppressant pack, thereby quickly controlling the fire locally.

Google patents smart reminder technology

Patent Number: US 9,355,640

Traditionally, reminders are triggered by a date/time associated with a calendar event or a task. This patented technology triggers reminders based on determining co-presence of a user with other individuals using audible sounds. The audible sounds are captured by the user’s mobile device. Voice profiles of other individuals are pre-stored in the mobile device. The audible sounds detected in an area are matched with pre-stored voice profiles to identify other individuals near the user.

The technology will provide many interesting applications. For example, a user may set reminders like “remind me to collect dues when co-present with a member of our club” or “remind me wish happy birthday when co-presence is detected with an individual with a birthday’.

Further, based on co-presence of the user with other individuals, the mobile device may open an app, e.g.,”play a happy birthday song when co-presence is detected with an individual with a birthday’, “send an email or text message to an individual when co-presence is detected with one or more other individuals”, or “take a picture”.

Facebook plans to introduce group gifts for life events

Patent Number: US 20160156586

Facebook sends notifications about life events (such as birthday and anniversary) of a user to friends of that user Now, they plan to allowing friends of a user to initiate a group gift card for a life event of the user. A user of the social networking system is presented with one or more friends that have a life event within a near future. such as a list of friends of the user that have upcoming birthdays. The user can also personalize the group gift card by adding a message.

Further, the user can contribute monetarily towards a gift, for example, by making a payment using a credit card. Similarly, other friends of the user may also contribute towards the gift.

Facebook also plans to allow Gift Arbitrage, such that the user receiving the group gift is also allowed to choose a different gift than that selected by friends.

Terminator-style self-healing material patented by NASA

Patent Number: US 20160152809

The iconic scene in the movie Terminator where T-1000 robot heals itself of the bullet holes has now become a technological reality.

NASA has invented a self-healing polymer that can automatically heal punctures created by bullets (high speed space debris that hits spacecrafts,for example).The self-healing material is designed to locally melt upon impact by a speeding bullet.

Due to the melt elasticity of the material, it snaps back and closes the hole.In addition, certain carefully chosen polymers are added to this self-healing material to enhance the speed of self-healing achieving hole closures in as less as 100 ms.

Use of carbon fibers along with the self-healing material provides greater strength and durability.

Although NASA has primary developed this technology to protect space crafts from high speed space debris, it may soon find it’s way into commercial applications such as self-healing protective shells for vehicles and even humans.