I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


21 September 2013

The Gtech cordless vacuum cleaner

I've been meaning to write before about Nick Grey's Gtech cordless vacuum cleaner.

Dyson has been making vacuum cleaners which are emptied from their bin for many years. Grey's vacuum cleaner claims to be an advance.

There are two small compartments which are in the cleaner head, just 5 cm from the surface being cleaned. The dust and debris is compressed in bales which can easily be removed. This means a 95% electrical saving: the motor is just 100 watts, compared to 1400 to 2400 for conventional vacuum cleaners. 

In addition, it is cordless. After a four hour charge it can operate for 40 minutes. Again, cords are certainly a nuisance and potentially a hazard.

It is also light -- the AirRam model weights 3.5 kg, half the typical rival model.

Nicholas Gerald Grey, his name in the patents, is from Worcestershire and states he is a mechanical engineer in company records. As a boy he was always tinkering with things. He was head of product development for another vacuum cleaner company but left with enough savings to last him for 18 months and set up his own company in 2001, believing that he could make something better -- light, energy efficient, cordless, and easy to use. The company is Grey Technology but somewhat confusingly uses Gtech on the site.

Many millions of units have been sold by his company Grey Technology, with models changing in appearance, with US shopping channels being the first advertising push. A short video by the company certainly makes it look very interesting. The company makes other cordless devices, over 22 million units so far.

This is a list of the fifteen World patent applications in the name of Nicholas Gerald Grey.

He does seem to have modified his ideas. Below is a model from 2006 for the cleaner head, as shown in among others EP1810603

First page clipping of EP1810603 (A1)

The current model, the Gtech AirRam, has a squarish head, similar in appearance to (but not necessarily identical to) that shown below, which is from his Surface cleaning apparatus patent application.

First page clipping of EP1865819 (A1)

It is interesting that the UK has, along with Dyson, another growing company which has made a leap forward in vacuum cleaner design.

17 September 2013

Sensors in clothing

The Daily Telegraph published an article today with the title UK researchers win patent for wearable smart sensors. It sounds like a nice idea, from Liverpool John Moores University. I have for a long time thought that wearing sensors is going to be an important advance in telemedicine. There are just two things wrong with the article.

The first is that there is no mention of the patent document's number, or a link to it, to help those interested in learning more. Nobody would write a review of a book or film without mentioning the title, after all.

The second is that the university hasn't actually got a patent. All that has happened is that a patent application was published on the 11 September as Microwave monitoring using an electrically conductive textile. Granting a patent is a second stage. Maybe the usage by the UK Intellectual Property Office calling it a "milestone patent" confused the issue in their press release on the invention.

The invention provides continual monitoring of the body using non-invasive techniques. This area is so important that the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) has provided an area for classifying diagnostic sensors mounted on clothing at A61B/6804. Patent documents on that subject can be found by ticking the box next to the required classification and then on Find Patents (on the left). This gives nearly 3,000 hits.

Better, perhaps, is to click on Copy to Search Form when additional fields can be added, such as keywords, company names, or patent authorities to narrow down the hits found. A problem with the CPC is that often the classes are added many months after publication, while the less detailed International Patent Classification on which it is based is available on publication day.

In this particular publication, very unusually, the CPC is already available, perhaps to mark the fact that the publication is GB2500000 in a series that began with 2000001 in 1978.

Subject searching in a sophisticated way is complicated and it is easy to make mistakes, so I always recommend using experts to help, such as the librarians in the Patlib UK network.