Have you ever seen a new product come to market about five years after you said to yourself, “One day, when I get the time, I’m going to invent a _________.”
That’s precisely how I felt when I came across a product recently made available to police officers — and other industries — that has the potential to totally redefine the high-visibility safety vest.
Joseph Lovett is a former LEO whose company — Colorado-based GammaBrite — manufactures a lighted safety vest that incorporates patented, nano-engineered, flat light panels.
The battery lasts more than 20 hours on a single charge and is USB rechargeable (in less than three hours) on an ordinary laptop or USB-equipped MDT. The lights can be customized with any department name. Check out the video and pick back up for some additional details I obtained from Lovett.
Setting aside my petty jealousy that someone else invented and brought to market my idea, I connected recently with Joseph Lovett of GammaBrite to learn a little more about the product and its underlying technology.
“Everything we know about the light bulb is wrong!” Lovett told me.
“Bulbs are hot, inefficient, rigid, and the eventual burnout is a catastrophic failure. Our lights are flat, thin, flexible, and energy efficient. There is no heat created. GammaBrite lights have no catastrophic failure... meaning they don’t burn out like a normal bulb. Based on the way we construct the lights, you can shoot it, poke holes in it, stab at it, and it continues to work!”
Lovett, who is former military and former law enforcement, told me that the two other co-owners of GammaBrite are also former police/SWAT officers. Given their collective backgrounds, and the unique capabilities of their technology, it made sense that the company focuses its efforts on safety products with an emphasis on the public safety market.
“The problem with wearable technology is that bodies are soft, and current technology is primarily hard. This is why LEDs are not a viable option for wearable light — as small as they are, they are still too rigid, too hot and cannot be made washable while remaining flexible.”
GammaBrite partnered with another company to use their washable, crushable, next-generation lamps for use in safety vests.
Up to now, for a vest to work you’d have to point a light at it for the retro-reflective components to activate. But by placing the light in the clothing itself, the folks at GammaBrite have made the wearer into the source of light, not the reflection.
“When we looked at police, we were initially conflicted,” Lovett told me. “We know how much most LEOs hate donning a vest, and what it does tactically. But we have to recall we are civil servants. People need to locate easily us when they need us — specifically in large crowd situations. The first level of force taught is often a professional officer presence. When working crowd control at crosswalks in a major city, a riot, large event, it is not a tactical setting and proper identification is crucial.”
A Nanotech PB&J Sandwich
Lovett explained that they affectionately refer to the construction of their lighting technology as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the way that the light is constructed is nothing short of amazing.
The layers that comprise “the PB&J” are a busbar, a clear conductor, a phosphor layer (this emits the light), a dielectric, a rear electrode, and the urethane backing. These next-generation electroluminescent lights have a urethane coating that makes the vests washable.
Much of the intellectual property in the vest is in the unique mixture of phosphor, the proprietary clear conductor, and the “connection” system. It isn’t like these guys are soldering wire. In fact the “wire” is a thread — typical, everyday thread — with a single layer of copper doped on it, which is then hermetically sealed and encapsulated in a moisture-proof laminate. The laminate has an industrial, heat press–activated adhesive that requires no sewing.
“Bodies are soft, so we needed a wire connection system that is flat, flexible, and washable like the lights. The wire has had other uses as well, specifically in eliminating weight in unmanned drones and other avionic designs because of the high conductivity, flexibility and lightweight design,” Lovett said.
He also assured me there are plenty of other design elements he’s not going to tell me or anybody else.
GammaBrite has begun to ship prototype vests to a small number of agencies for testing and evaluation, and the company is in talks with some agencies about the purchase process. Lovett told me that once they go into production, they plan to have manufacturing done strictly in the USA.
“That’s important to us,” Lovett declared.
For more information, visit the GammaBrite website.