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One Professor, Three Inventions

Three technical innovations, involving hundreds of students mentored by Dr. Knutson were licensed through the BYU Technology Transfer Office this past year.

Many teachers invent new methods to reach out to their students. Dr. Charles Knutson of the Computer Science Department has helped his students invent new things to reach out to the public.

Three technical innovations, involving hundreds of students mentored by Dr. Knutson were licensed through the BYU Technology Transfer Office this past year.

Because of this, Dr. Knutson received the annual university Technology Transfer Award, which recognizes faculty who have made significant research contributions that have led to the development of useful commercial products.

“When you try to do research that can be commercialized, the question is whether it can be applied elsewhere,” said Dr. Knutson. “Are there customers who are going to benefit from this?”

The Poket Doctor project originated from Dr. Knutson’s work as Director of the Mobile Computing Laboratory in close collaboration with two graduate students, David Vawdrey and Eric Hall.

Their work led to a patent for a technology that dramatically extended battery life in a Bluetooth-enabled smartcard via the use of passive RFID tags. Their patent was licensed this past year to a UK company called TomTom International.

The 20-Minute Genealogist project originated in Dr. Knutson’s CS 428 Software Engineering course in Fall 2007 as a class project to create software that would enable an individual to make progress in their own family history work in as little as 20 minutes a week.

With the support of Dr. Daniel Zappala of the Computer Science Department and the involvement of several hundred students over the next five years, the 20-Minute Genealogist was released as a beta product in April 2012.

During the past year, the technologies (including one patent issued and two additional patents pending) were licensed to Kinpoint, Inc., a Utah County startup company now in its first round of funding.

The Internet Safety Project began as a podcast produced by students in Dr. Knutson’s CS 404 Ethics and Computers in Society course in Fall 2007. The following year a wiki was added to the podcast, and in October 2010 the site was expanded and rebranded as the Internet Safety Project. Its fundamental goal is to help educate parents, teachers, and teens about the benefits and risks of technology.

While incubating at BYU over five years, the Internet Safety Project grew to include the world’s most popular podcast on Internet Safety and the world’s largest wiki on Internet Safety.

The Internet Safety Project became an off-campus corporation this last year, acquiring the rights to the intellectual property created as a BYU project. In August 2013, Internet Safety Project, Inc. received 501(c)3 non-profit recognition from the United States government.

“You don’t set out to license three technologies in the same year, but things just seemed to come together,” remarked Dr. Knutson. “It’s satisfying to see the success of these projects, especially given the tremendous student involvement while they incubated at BYU.”

All research can be valuable. With Dr. Knutson’s inventions, we can see just how useful research can be.