ASU engineering leaders talk innovation, industry partnerships and entrepreneurship

wear news imageASU engineering leaders talk innovation, industry partnerships and entrepreneurship – Phoenix Business Journal

Through industry partnerships, a big push for entrepreneurship and innovations galore, Arizona State University’s engineering school is teaching everything from big data and understanding how the brain works, to robotics and solar research. Several leaders with ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering talked about their work at the school at an “Engineering the Future: Entrepreneurship, partnerships and a commitment to innovation” event Tuesday morning on the Tempe campus.

The engineering school’s Dean Kyle Squires said with the pace of technology changes ever increasing, new pressure is put on companies to keep their employees up to speed. “Retraining the workforce is a great opportunity for us,” Squires said. “We have an opportunity to change the game. It’s more crucial than it’s ever been. We need to think about where the field is going to be in 10-15 years.”

With 330 faculty and more than 20,000 students, ASU’s engineering school is the largest in the country. ASU has also been named as the No. 1 school in the country for innovation, which makes the school stand out from the Ivy League schools it competes for students with.

Nadya Bliss, who helms ASU’s Global Security Initiative and is the principal investigator of the Foresight Initiative, works with big data and cybersecurity. Instead of the internet of things, she prefers the term “internet of everyone” as she analyzes data streams from a number of sources and finds new ways to secure computer devices.

“More devices mean more data and more vulnerabilities,” said Bliss, who spent 10 years at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “There is a growing need for more cybersecurity. You need to listen to computer scientists. We know what we’re talking about.”

Her focus is on research with an impact, and stressed that a diverse, talent pipeline is “incredibly important” for ASU.

Marco Santello, a director and professor in ASU’s School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, works with biomedical technologies. He enjoys understanding how the brain works, especially when it comes to strokes, cognitive declines and diseases.

ASU engineering leaders talk innovation, industry partnerships and entrepreneurship – Phoenix Business Journal

“We come up with devices to help mitigate these problems, including working with neuroprosthetics,” said Santello, who partners with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “Bringing together academia and the industry is key to streamlining cooperation.”

Thomas Sugar, a professor who leads a research effort in wearable robotic systems, works with robotics and manufacturing. He co-founded SpringActive Inc., which builds powered prosthetic ankles and exoskeletons, and the Wearable Robotics Association, which hosts an annual wearable robotics conference WearRAcon in Phoenix starting April 19.

ASU engineering leaders talk innovation, industry partnerships and entrepreneurship – Phoenix Business Journal

“Robotics is blooming right now,” said Sugar, who added he recently hired 15 new robotics faculty. “Through wearable robotics, we’re trying to improve the quality of life to help with mobility and rehabilitation.”

Sugar is working with various industries to help improve the quality of work. For example, building exoskeletons employees can use around the back or shoulders during routine manufacturing work to help them work without pain and any need for future surgery.

“Robots don’t take away jobs,” he said. “We’re just trying to improve jobs, not take away jobs.”

Zachary Holman, an assistant professor and active researcher in the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technology Engineering Research Center, works with renewable energy. He also co-founded Swift Coat, an ASU spin-off company that deals with nanoparticle coating and is a finalist in the ASU Innovation Open.

Holman’s research focuses on solar cells and new applications, as well as storage solutions for solar. He added ASU has 10 faculty working on solar, which is far greater than other universities.

“We are pushing the efficiency on solar cells,” said Holman, whose recent collaboration with Stanford University nearly matched the efficiency record of solar cells. “ASU is a hub for solar activity.”

Everyone touted the importance of industry partnerships and need for business mentors to work with students.

“We need to make sure bridges are built to make connections in the community,” Santello said.

Squires said the school has an “ambitious task to make a real impact,” and encouraged industry leaders to reach out to work with ASU.

Any interested business mentors or companies interested in partnering with ASU should email

Hayley Ringle covers technology and startups for the Phoenix Business Journal.

An Overview of the Exoskeleton Patent Landscape

Posted on February 22, 2017 by David Cohen

Exoskeleton inventions made their first appearance around 2000, and have since developed into a distinct and growing area of human assistive technology, with consumer, medical, industrial, and military applications. To really grasp the scope and who’s who of the exoskeleton technology space, it can be helpful to look past fiction, puff, and press releases, and focus instead on data that reports actual patenting activity.

Using “AcclaimIP,” a patent search and analytics service (, I have developed an overview of the exoskeleton space. The main search was made using the term “exoskeleton” in the “abstract” field. Some exoskeleton-relevant patents, however, may not actually use the term “exoskeleton.” I searched separately on Yoshiyuki Sankai of Tsukuba University (Japan) to capture his patent applications, which refer instead to “motion assistive devices.” I also searched separately on “exosuit” to capture relevant references from Harvard College and SRI.

To streamline the search, I focused on US patents and published applications. The vast majority of foreign cases (i.e., non-US patent applications, such as those filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty) have counterpart US applications. Thus their elimination does not affect the broad perspective provided by a US-based overview. Starting with the references accumulated by way of various search approaches, I deleted irrelevant references (e.g., references related to crustaceans, which actually pioneered exoskeleton technology). I also deleted published US patent applications that were later issued as patents. The end result was a set of 223 US patents and published applications, which I then used for graphical analytics, as provided by AcclaimIP.

Chart 1. Assignees, Compiled by David Cohen

Charts 1 and 2 show respectively the top assignees and the most prolific inventors in the exoskeleton space. These two charts complement each other. For example, Homayoon Kazerooni (the most prolific inventor) has patents that are assigned variously to the University of California, Ekso Bionics, and US Bionics/SuitX (seen on the assignee chart). In time, exoskeleton patent applications will appear that are assigned to suitX, Kazerooni’s current company. Yoshiyuki Sankai (the second most prolific inventor) has patents that are assigned to both Tsukuba University and Cyberdyne (seen on the assignee chart).

Chart 2. Inventors, Prepared by Dr. David Cohen

University and research institute representation are well represented on the full list of assignees; they own nearly 40% of the patents in the data list of 223 references. This makes sense in a field that is young and had its start in a research setting.

Chart 3 shows the number of patent applications filed in this space from 1997 to now (February 2017), with a steady growth phase beginning in about 2008. Applications take between 12 to 18 months to become publicly available; thus the 2016 patent filing data are incomplete, and will likely surpass the total for 2015. Another consequence of this delay in public availability is that the data shown in these charts lag behind the present actuality.

Chart 3. Filing Date, Prepared by Dr. David Cohen

As noted above, exosuit devices are included in the reported data (11 references). Assignees include Harvard College and SRI International (as seen on the Assignee chart), and OtherLab. Harvard inventor, Conor Walsh, and SRI inventors Roy Kornbluh and Alexander Steele, can be seen on the inventor chart. The first exosuit patent was filed in 2013; this technology space will clearly be growing and may deserve its own set of charts within a few years.

Exoskeleton Standards Technical Interchange Meeting

On January 26-27 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted the Exoskeleton Standards Technical Interchange Meeting in Gaithersburg, MD (USA). Dr. Bruce Floersheim represented the Wearable Robotics Association (WearRA) at the meeting and joined together with approximately 150 people, representing over 100 organizations from eight countries.

Four primary sessions encompassed the two days of activities:

  1. Standards Development Process and Best Practices
  2. Military Applications for Exoskeletons
  3. Industrial Applications for Exoskeletons
  4. Medical Applications for Exoskeletons

Speakers representing each of the core use areas presented operational use cases and constraints important for their particular activity set and demographic. Participants provided inputs on areas to be addressed by any standards created to support each of these areas.

Speaker Jim Key from the Atomic Energy Workers’ Council, an affiliate of the United Steel Workers Union (representing over 850,000 members nationally across a wide spectrum of industry) spoke passionately about the need and opportunity for exoskeleton systems. These systems are needed to augment workers in a way that will reduce injury while increasing the opportunity for employees to continue in a productive fashion even as they age and regardless of gender or physical size/strength.

wearra image
Figure 1. Roger Bostelman, Workshop Facilitator and Advanced Mobility Engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), describing early U.S. thoughts on test methods and standards for exoskeletons.

The meeting was co-organized by Roger Bostelman with NIST. Roger will be speaking at WearRAcon 17 (WearRA’s annual conference) and will provide an update on actions taken as a result of this week’s meeting to continue informing the international community, while collaborating together as this emerging technology becomes ubiquitous.
Speaker John Mizurak from CNA Insurance, the 12th largest insurer in the world, spoke of the opportunity to reduce issues with workers’ compensation claims as injuries are reduced. He also discussed the need to better understand the potential risks, so that product liability insurance is appropriately provided to sellers of the technology.

WearRA Director of Operations Speaks at PMA Fall Meeting

On Wednesday, November 16 th Dr. Bruce Floersheim, WearRA Director of Operations, spoke to members of the Precious Metals Association (PMA) in Washington, D.C. at the Army-Navy Club. He was invited to inform the PMA members about the field of wearable robotics in general and the potential uses of silver within wearable robotic components in particular. Members represented that day included silver recyclers, precious metals commodities traders and refiners from the United States and Great Britain. During his presentation, Dr. Floersheim described the explosion of activity in this field, especially in Europe and Asia, with regards to concerted efforts in small/large business and even large state-run companies to create products for domestic and international use. Particular components that may include the use of silver at some point in the production stream include:

— RFID/Circuitry: Silver-based inks, films, contact coatings, palladium-sliver capacitors

— Switches: Silver membrane switches

— Power: Silver-based batteries could be an excellent replacement option for Lithium Ion

Batteries, which have been involved with safety-concerns recently.

-Silver-Oxide Batteries: The most common silver oxide battery is the small button-cell battery used in cameras, toys, hearing aids, watches and calculators. This size is approximately 35% silver by weight.

-Silver-Cadmium Batteries

-Silver-Zinc batteries

— Smart textiles: Approximately 90% of the silver employed as an industrial catalyst is used for the production of ethylene oxide, the foundation for plastics including polyester, a textile used in specialty clothing.