Tech Briefs: How does the Technology Commercialization
Office tie in with the research being done at Langley Research Center?
F. Beaton: We take a look at the technologies that are
developed here at the center and we try to see if there is a secondary
use for them. We do our mission work and then our office evaluates
certain technologies that come to us that may be novel, and if so,
we try to transfer them to the commercial world.
What is the Child Presence Sensor and how does it work?
It is a retrofit system that can attach to any baby seat or child
seat. It is made of three parts: a sensor, a transmitter, and a
receiver with an alarm that notifies a parent or a caregiver if
they’ve inadvertently left the child inside the car. It works
on an RF range principle, so if a parent or caregiver gets a certain
distance away from the automobile, it will beep at them. The alarm
can be held on the key chain since the device is very small.
Has Langley research inspired the development of this technology?
There was some flight research that was performed on our 757 research
aircraft. An experiment was successfully completed where scientists
transmitted vibration, noise, and temperature data from the wheel
well or the landing gear area - which is a very hostile environment
on the aircraft - up to the research area in the cabin. They used
an aircraft sensor mounted in the landing gear area to detect environmental
effects on the aircraft. The data was then sent to the cockpit via
an RF transmitter and receiver. So this flight-test technology gave
our inventors the idea to come up with a similar device for saving
Who was the principal inventor?
It was a team consisting of William “Chris” Edwards,
a laser systems specialist; Terry Mack, a Lockheed Martin electronics
engineer; and Edward Modlin, senior aerospace technologist.
How did they come up with this idea?
There was a tragic event that occurred near Langley at
a daycare center where a child was left in a car seat. The main
inventor’s child also attended that daycare center. A lot
of people asked how this could possibly happen, but Chris Edwards
thought about it and believed this could happen to anybody because
our lives have become so hectic. This sparked the idea to come up
with a solution to this problem.
Is the device currently available to the general public?
No. The technology has been developed, prototyped, and it has had
some testing done. We’ve done demonstrations for various people
and we’re trying to get companies involved with taking the
technology from the prototype stage to a consumer product.
How long do you think it will be before the device hits the market?
It depends on how much more work is needed - what testing and verification
the technology has to go through to get to the product stage. We’re
trying to flush out all details with companies to see what it would
take to do this. We are also trying to target the technology or
the product for sale at the right price. That has been the difficulty
- the price is what drives the consumer to buy a product. Being
a safety product, or a safety-related product, people don’t
really want to spend money for safety; they just expect it. So that
seems to be the biggest hurdle right now - trying to find the right
company that would want to take this on.
What other projects are you involved with?
We have a number of non-destructive evaluation projects
that we are working on for various types of applications like aircraft.
One of our technologies, called scanning thermography, has found
its way to the insides of boilers in utility companies, and it’s
helping them find out where their vulnerable areas are inside their
boilers. The technology can detect cracks and wear in industrial
tanks or piping, aircraft, power plants, and bridges. Companies
are then able to inspect and remove corrosive or damaged areas during
their downtime so they can keep their utility plants running longer.
Director, Planetary Robotics Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Oil-Free Turbo Machinery Technical Leader
Glenn Research Center
Senior Research Engineer
Glenn Research Center