Shaun McWherter, Mark Skoog, and Jamie Willhite, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA; and Loyd Hook, University of Tulsa, OK

“Our team is honored to receive this award. Our improvements to data handling and compression will hopefully go on to save many lives in the future. This award will help garner the attention of potential licensees and build interest in this advancement. We are very grateful to NASA Tech Briefs and the judges for their consideration.”

This NASA-developed data-compression technology is capable of encoding massive amounts of data into a package more than 1,000 times smaller than with standard compression, which can transform the use of digital terrain maps (DTMs) in restricted environments such as tablets, smartphones, and embedded systems. Created at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, the software system integrates innovative encoding and decoding algorithms to provide a 5,000:1 compression ratio and rapid/continuous decompression in constrained computing situations. It enables users to access and create customized DTMs from a variety of data sources using a single graphical user interface.

Standard compression methods provide only a 4:1 compression ratio — the original file size is reduced by one-fourth. In an aircraft or other computing-constrained environment, this shortcoming in compression capability limits the number of DTMs that can be stored locally at any one time. In the case of an airplane, technicians must swap out the DTMs in between flights, which introduces the opportunity for human error and requires extensive manual quality-control work.

NASA’s technology can compress extensive DTMs at the highly efficient ratio of 5,000:1. For example, a 22-Mb DTM that previously could be compressed only down to 5.5 Mb can now be shrunk to 4.4 kb.

Although aviation was the original target for this technology, the software has uses in situations where line-of-sight needs to be rapidly computed, continual surfaces need to be analyzed, or terrain routes need to be analyzed and planned. Potential applications include automotive GPS, geographical prediction and planning, marine charting systems, geospatial/geographic information systems (GIS), medical software, Earth science data collection, and gaming systems. In one example, the software is forming the basis for an intelligent cruise control that would achieve better fuel economy in cars.

For more information, visit http://contest.techbriefs.com/electronics_winner2016 


Global Environmental Monitoring Network

Radu Motisan, Magnasci SRL, Timisoara, Timis, Romania

A global network consisting of Internet-connected hardware devices detects both chemical and physical factors causing harm to the environment. Participants can purchase one of several proprietary environmental monitors that they connect to the existing infrastructure, and can then access data through a software dashboard interface.

For more information, visit http://contest.techbriefs.com/network 

Asymmetric Dielectric Elastomer Composite Material

Sean Sullivan/LaRC Technology Gateway, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA

This electronic active material converts a voltage input to a mechanical force and mechanical displacement output. The material has reduced electrode spacing that significantly lowers the required operating voltage, and reinforcing fibers to increase strength.

For more information, visit http://contest.techbriefs.com/elastomer 

Pocket Inverter (2kW/240Vac) for Sustainable Energy Applications

Benoit Blanchard St Jacques and Alain St-Jacques, TM4 Inc., Quebec, Canada

An ultra-small inverter converts high DC voltage into residential AC voltage. Similar converters are currently more than 30 times bigger than this device. The converter could supply power to any household device from a high-voltage battery.

For more information, visit http://contest.techbriefs.com/inverter 

Virtuoso — Embedded Virtual Device Framework

Jonathan Torkelson, Ashok Chaubey, Devender Maurya, Nick Vinyard, Devender Pal Sharma, Doug Torkelson, Manish Dubey, and Gaurav Singh, Embeddetech Inc., Tulsa, OK

The Virtuoso framework allows custom embedded application hardware to be virtualized for development. An application layer cross-compiles between the virtual device and target compiler so that the firmware can be developed and tested independent of hardware.

For more information, visit http://contest.techbriefs.com/virtuoso