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NEWS | June 24, 2015

Navy engineer patents innovative data transfer system

By By Tom Frazee, NSWC Port Hueneme Division

PORT HUENEME, Calif. - An invention that uses light to transmit data may allow the Navy to increase the security of classified systems.


Matthew Sheehan, a Research and Development system engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division's (NSWC PHD) Office of Engineering and Technology, is the recipient of a rare first action allowance and patent award by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for his method and system of one-way data transmission from an open network to a closed network.


"My invention, which is called a Light Information Transmitting Optical System, or LITOS, utilizes the transmission of data by way of visible light communication via free space optics," said Sheehan. "In other words, it's like communicating over fiber optics without the fiber. This invention ensures the ability to get message traffic from point A to point B in a safe and reliable manner.  More specifically, the system allows communicating from the low or unclassified side, such as from NMCI, to the high or classified side, like the SIPR network, or basically the ability for less secure systems to talk to more secure systems."


This new invention ensures data can be sent correctly in a fast, efficient and reliable manner. 


"While difficult to visualize, this invention supports something the Navy calls an air gap or an actual gap around a network that allows it to stand alone with a gap or free space separating it from other systems," Sheehan said.  "My invention preserves that gap with something called free space optics, which is another term for light that's propagated through the air.  Think of a lighthouse as propagating light through the air.  My invention is the same principle utilizing free space optics or light to transmit data from one location to another."


LITOS lays the groundwork for longer distance, higher speed communications without the constraints of wires to transmit information or data.


"This new capability can be put into place quickly and will result in significant cost savings compared to more traditional systems," Sheehan said.  "And the capability provided by LITOS will be faster, cheaper and more secure than current systems."


According to Chris Monsey, the intellectual property and government acquisition attorney who assisted Sheehan in the patent process, "This first action allowance as well as the subject matter on cybersecurity is an indication that this patent is worthy of particular attention both for tech transfer but, more importantly, for the Navy as it shows that the capability this system can provide represents state-of-the-art for this cybersecurity capability."


Monsey said the fact that the patent application was able to survive an increasingly stringent process with the Patent Office underlines the quality of both the invention and quality of the patent-drafting effort to which Sheehan contributed. 

"Based on my experience both in the government and in private practice, I find that the Navy has some of the very best innovators anywhere.  As shown by this first action allowance, Matt is certainly in that league," said Monsey.


NSWC Port Hueneme is a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command and provides the U.S. Navy with weapon system in-service engineering, logistics and test and evaluation. NSWC Port Hueneme is located at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif. where it employs more than 1,900 personnel.