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Purdue Discovery in Broadband Communications Highlighted in 2011 Better World Report


A Purdue University discovery that improves broadband communications is featured as one of 23 real-world technologies in the 2011 Better World Report, an annual publication that highlights patented university discoveries that directly impact the quality of life for people around the world.

"Purdue University faculty, staff and students at our campuses in West Lafayette and around the state have long been discovering life-saving processes and products that reverberate globally," said France A. Córdova, president of Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation. "We take these discoveries and deliver them to the public. Completing this process requires a remarkable level of commitment by our university researchers and Purdue Research Foundation officials."

This year marks the sixth edition of the Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM, Better World Report. Each year the report focuses on a global challenge with examples of how universities are addressing it. The 2011 report focuses on the mediation of human and natural disasters, which the Purdue technology does by helping provide dependable communications, particularly in crisis situations.

"Not only is this the first time a Purdue discovery has been recognized in the prestigious Better World Report, but it is another example of how a new technology has been commercialized through the successful launch of a new company," said Joseph B. Hornett, senior vice president, treasurer and COO of the Purdue Research Foundation. "The broadband technology was commercialized by three Purdue faculty members through the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization."

Anthony H. Smith, Lonnie D. Bentley and Michael D. Kane, professors in the College of Technology's Department of Computer and Information Technology, founded Broadband Antenna Tracking Systems (BATS) Inc. in 2008. The Indianapolis-based company provides enhanced electronic communications through automated antenna aiming and tracking technology for broadband directional antennas that Smith, Bentley and Kane co-developed.

"When we witness a technology like BATS that has gone through the commercialization process and successfully moved to the public where it helps with the safety and well-being of people everywhere, it provides a humbling example of why we go to work every day," said Elizabeth Hart-Wells, assistant vice president and director of Purdue's Office of Technology Commercialization.

The BATS technology currently is being used by first responders to natural disasters and homeland security officials, as well as for oceanic vessel-to-vessel communications and other situations.

"What's important to the success of the technology is that there was a communication need that wasn't being met, and what we have developed is meeting that need and is adaptable to many situations," Bentley said. "This discovery has improved communications in times of disaster and already has helped save lives and secure the safety of people in high-risk areas. In times of any kind of disaster, communication systems are the most critical for first responders in getting help where it is needed most and, unfortunately, communication systems are often the first to fail."

The technology currently is being used in New York City's Empire State Building, in combat areas by the Department of Defense and by the Turkish Navy for ship-to-ship communication. It also was used in a Louisiana parish during the 2010 threat of a hurricane and at the 2010 G-20 Toronto Summit.

The technology's development followed a discussion between Bentley and Smith after Smith spent five hours on a tower trying to aim a microwave broadband antenna. Conventional broadband communication infrastructure requires highly skilled technicians who can align antennas on towers that often are miles apart. This challenge becomes even more difficult when using directional antennas that project a beam width of 0.4 degrees and virtually impossible when an antenna is to be mounted on a mobile platform.

"Even if a communication system is aligned correctly, it just takes a high wind or an aftershock to move antennas out of alignment and break the communication link," Smith said.

The technology developed by Smith, Bentley and Kane addresses these challenges by enabling automatic aiming, alignment and tracking for broadband directional antennas.

"We created a computer algorithm that automatically adjusts an antenna for optimal communication," Bentley said.

In addition to more reliable communication, the system works faster than conventional adjustments.

"Typically, it could take up to half a day to manually align an antenna, but the computer alignment takes less than a minute," Kane said. "This isn't just a time saver. It can save lives when people are in danger as a hurricane hits or they are on a battlefield and need emergency assistance."

The Better World Report included other new technologies addressing global challenges such as fresh water supplies, health-care treatments, energy resources, food safety and environmental concerns. Other universities and technologies featured in the 2011 Better World Report include:

* University of California at Los Angeles: A better membrane to help replenish the world's fresh drinking water supply.

* Massachusetts Institute of Technology: A device that offers pain relief to people suffering from a chronic bladder condition.

* University of Georgia: Biotechnology that helps increase crop production.

Purdue Research Foundation
Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340

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