At DesignCon: Technology Innovations on Earth and In Space

For José Morey, a consultant to a number of organizations including NASA and IBM as well as a technology speaker and medical consultant, the future is now. Speaking at last Thursday’s DesignCon keynote session, Morey said technology advancements a few years ago thought to be the stuff of science entertainment, such as robots and autonomous cars, have become a reality, and the pace of progress is likely to continue.an

Some of the technology innovations have seen their roots in NASA Itech, an initiative that helps to identify and assist independent R&D projects that show promise for near-term commercialization. According to Morey, the initiative seeks to work with investors, inventors, and industry companies to identify promising technologies and help guide them to reality.

Morey, who was trained in medicine, told the audience many of the limitations humans face in space exploration are not necessarily technological but biological. “We need to identify new biomarkers, particularly in space medicine. We must be able to sense biological vibrations to identify disease and health issues.”

Smart Fabrics

To that end, Morey said the research was already underway on embedding smart technology into fabrics that can identify hot or cold conditions and adjust the temperature accordingly. He cited the example of the Loomia electronic layer (LEL), a flexible electronic layer that can be attached via heat bonding, pressure-sensitive adhesives, or sewing. Besides clothing, Loomia can be used for tactile switches or wearable technology interconnects.

Morey cited other technologies with uses on both earth and in space. For instance miniature MRI technology, already used on earth in mobile MRI stations, was being adopted for space conditions. Also, biomechatronics is not only used in space but also on earth to help disable patients gain a sense of movement with their arms or legs.

One of the challenges for space medicine, Morey noted, was controlling the spread of bacteria. “How do we guarantee what we bring from earth does not affect the moon or other planets,” he said. Morey also noted that work would have to be done to protect humans on the moon or other planets from radiation, which on earth is less of an issue because of the presence of an atmosphere.

Asides from medicine, Morey cited continuing development of robots for space exploration, such as the cube-shaped Astrobee robots which are free-flying robots that can be remotely operated by astronauts in space or by mission controllers on the ground. 


Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected]

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