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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Patent issued to engineering professor

News and Information Article Photo
Dr. Paul A. Kuban
Photo Credit:
USI Photo Services
Contact for more information:
Betty Vawter
Senior Editor, News & Information Services
University of Southern Indiana President Linda L. M. Bennett has announced the issuance on August 2 of U.S. Patent No. 7,991,351 which relates to improved technology for access between wired and wireless networks. The patent is the first issued to a faculty member working with USI's Center for Applied Research.

Dr. Paul A. Kuban , associate professor of engineering, is the inventor of an interface that makes the fixed networks found in automotive networks, medical instrumentation consoles, and factory automation systems accessible to the latest standard in wireless networks, incorporating access control, encryption, mesh networking, and other features.

"One of the growing roles of the University is to drive innovation as well as education in the region," Bennett said. "As our internationally accredited engineering program has grown, we have increased faculty and applied research, providing novel solutions to real problems that will help our region thrive economically. We are pleased that Paul Kuban's innovation has been recognized with a patent."

The technology in Kuban's invention can be applied in many scenarios. For instance, it would allow diagnostic codes from an automobile to be translated directly to a mechanics computer without having to connect the car to the computer. In a medical setting, the technology would allow continuous monitoring of a patient who is being wheeled from a patient-care room to the operating room.

"The wireless network is secure," Kuban said, "and would automatically track the patient as he is moved from one room to another. There would be no need to disconnect anything."

The product is called the CAN-Bee Interface, the name reflecting the creation of the Controller Area Network (CAN) to ZigBee Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) interface. The interface integrates conventional hardware components and custom firmware.

The Controller Area Network is used worldwide as the fixed network in automobiles, medical instruments, and factory automation systems. It has been in use since the 1980s. Kuban said the installed base of this wired network is vast and continues to grow.

The IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers) established in 2003 the wireless standard 802.15.4 which forms the foundation for the growing ZigBee WPAN platform.

The CAN-Bee Interface is low cost, low power, efficient, and secure.

Kuban said the manufacturing cost is approximately 5 percent of the present sales price of existing products with similar capability.

"The CAN-Bee Interface combines the power of the installed CAN infrastructure with the simplicity, compatibility, portability, and multi-faceted feature set of the latest wireless standard, enabling easy ZigBee accessibility to hundred of millions of existing CAN nodes," he said.

Potential applications include low-cost control system penetration through factory firewalls multipoint, cable-free vibration analysis of heavy machinery integrated vehicle and household automation systems and secure, reliable, re-configurable hospital patient-monitoring systems.

The interface has been tested successfully in a factory automation environment and on board heavy-duty earth-moving equipment. It is available for demonstration to prospective licensees.

Dr. Susan J. Ellspermann , director of the USI Center for Applied Research, said the University pursued the patent in partnership with the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC), which assists researchers in realizing the commercial potential of their discoveries. A nonprofit agency that operates through IUs Office of Engagement, IURTC has the expertise to facilitate the process with the patent office, patent attorneys, and other resources.

Dr. Bill L. Brizzard, director of technology transfer for IURTC, managed the process for USI through a memorandum of understanding. "It's quite an accomplishment to receive a patent," Blizzard said. "We already have had some interest in this invention, and we are confident of its prospects for development into a commercial product."

Along with Kuban, representatives from IURTC will present information about the CAN-Bee Interface September 28-29 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at a technology showcase sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center. They will attend similar events in other cities.

Prior to joining USI in 1996, Kuban received two patents related to audio processing in cellular telephones. He completed a master's degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University and a doctorate in computer science and engineering at the University of Louisville.

Kuban conducted research that led to the invention of the Can-Bee Interface during a sabbatical in 2005 while working toward his doctoral degree. He began working with the Controller Area Network in 2004. After reading about the ZigBee WPAN that was relatively new at that time, he began developing a gateway to enable those two networks to work together.

In addition to teaching, Kuban advises students who compete in the Mini Baja car competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. He also is faculty advisor for the USI Wrestling Club.

A guitarist, Kuban is a member of the band Hoosier Daddy, a rhythm and blues group. Using technology based on the CAN-Bee Interface, he has devised a wireless switching system for synthesizers and amplifiers he uses while playing in the band.

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