This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.

Sensor Can Save Children or Pets Left in Cars

A small, inexpensive sensor could save lives by triggering an alarm when children or pets are left alone in vehicles. The new device, developed at the University of Waterloo (Canada), combines radar technology with artificial intelligence (AI) to detect unattended children or animals with 100% accuracy. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the device is designed to be attached to a vehicle's rear-view mirror or mounted on the ceiling. It sends out radar signals that are reflected back by people, animals, and objects in the vehicle. Built-in AI then analyzes the reflected signals. In such cases, the system would prevent vehicle doors from locking and sound an alarm to alert the driver, passengers, and other people in the area that there is a problem.

Contact: Matthew Grant, University of Waterloo
Phone: 519-888-4451
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Soft, Conformable Hearing Implants

For hearing-impaired patients to recover their sense of hearing, electrical signals must be sent directly to the auditory brainstem, which is done with an auditory brainstem implant (ABI); however, the outcomes of ABIs are mixed and they are also stiff and cannot conform precisely to the curvature of the auditory brainstem. Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland), Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear developed a soft electronic interface. The highly elastic implant conforms neatly to the curved surface of the auditory brainstem and can send highly targeted electrical signals. The new implant consists of a conformable array of platinum electrodes encased in silicone. The properties of the device would be of value for many types of implantable neuroprosthetics such as those used to stimulate or record neural activity in the spine, brain, or peripheral nerves.

Contact: EPFL
Phone: +41 21 69 3 22 22
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Microwave-Based Water Decontamination System

NASA Johnson Space Center developed a microwave-based system to eradicate bacteria that grows in systems that generate potable water, in equipment utilizing cooling loops and heat exchangers, and bacterial contamination present on a variety of surfaces. The system is chemical-free and requires minimal to no consumables. The technology was originally developed to address the water purification needs and challenges on the International Space Station (ISS). Current water purification methods onboard the ISS use hazardous chemicals and require consumable products to be transported from Earth to the ISS. The microwave decontamination system could also be added to existing water systems to extend the life of the system.

Contact: NASA Johnson Technology Transfer Office
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.