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Shannon Kennedy : A Smartphone Case for Protection | Business

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Shannon Kennedy : A Smartphone Case for Protection
Shannon Kennedy : A Smartphone Case for Protection

Smart phones have become central to our lives, getting smarter and smarter with each passing generation. However, with progress, comes great danger.  ese sophisticated devices resting in our pockets and being held against our cheeks are emitting potentially harmful waves of electromagnetic radiation that penetrate into our body, possibly doing untold amounts of harm. Pong Research has developed a simple solution that has the potential to save lives. Operating out of Leesburg, Virginia, a team of physicists and entrepreneurs led by Shannon Kennedy, have developed the Pong case for smart phones and iPads. We spoke to Shannon about Pong Research and how his revolutionary cases redirect electromagnetic radiation away from user without limiting your device’s signal strength.

Tell us about Pong Research.
We organized Pong in January 2011 with the mission of becoming the global leader in science-based solutions that protect users of cell phones and other mobile devices from potentially harmful electromagnetic radiation (“EMR”). Pong received four granted patents and has seven patents pending, and hired an international team of scientists who collectively possess unique expertise in the fields of physics, nuclear and radiation science, electrical engineering, antenna design, cell biology and health sciences. Pong initially released the world’s first and only external cell phone case that’s scientifically proven to dramatically reduce exposure to cell phone radiation while optimizing the device’s performance. Our cases have been laboratory-proven to reduce exposure by up to 95% below the FCC’s limit while also protecting the mobile device’s signal strength.

How did you become involved with Pong?
After successfully pursuing careers in other businesses, my two partners and I formed an investment fund and advisory practice in 2006. In April of 2010, Pong’s founders engaged us as consultants to the company and, ultimately, we invested in it. In addition to Pong’s unique intellectual property, we saw great potential value in the fact that, while we were approaching five billion cell phone users worldwide − many of whom were quite concerned about radiation exposure − consumers overall lacked any credible means to address their concerns. Once we built consensus around Pong’s future direction, the founders asked me to serve as Pong’s CEO, which I agreed to do in January 2011 when we ultimately formed the company.

There seems to be a lot of inconclusive data about cell phone radiation. What studies can we turn to?
First and foremost, people need to know that last May (2011), the World Health Organization (WHO) classified cell phone radiation as being possibly carcinogenic to humans. This classification is based on a tenyear, $25 million study spanning more than a dozen countries that began in 2000. The data from this very large study suggested that certain factors, such as using the cell phone for about 30 minutes a day for ten years on the same side of the head could double the risk of a glioma, a form of brain cancer that is rarely curable and often fatal.

Also, last year, Dr. Nora Volkow from NIH published fi ndings in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed a significant increase in brain glucose metabolism in the area of the brain near the cell phone antenna after just 50 minutes of use. This clearly demonstrates that the human brain is sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones.


For those who wish to look further into the issue, I would suggest the Bio-Initiative Report, which provides a summary of findings up to 2007 and is written by a terrific group of scientists. Also, Dr. Ronald Herberman, formerly of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, gave a thorough overview of the issue in his testimony to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2008. Just last month, Environment and Human Health, Inc., led by Professor John Wargo from Yale University, published a comprehensive report on cell phones and health effects. Beyond that, if you read any of the works of Dr. Martin Blank, Dr. Om Ghandi, Dr. Henry Lai, Dr. Olle Johansson, Dr. Lennart Hardell or Dr. Dimitris Panagopoulusas, you will quickly see what a credible and global issue this is.

How much danger are cell phone users really facing? How much radiation are we getting from a tenminute phone call, for example?
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to quantify how much danger consumers are facing since cell phones and other mobile devices are still a relatively new technology. Further complicating the issue is that the use patterns for consumers have dramatically increased only in the past few years. However, this does not mean there is no evidence for concern. There is already a growing body of evidence that suggests real risks associated with long-term and heavy usage. And the health concerns aren’t limited to cancer. There are also studies showing possible links between cell phone radiation and DNA strand breaks, blood-brain barrier leakage, headaches, sleep interruption, cognitive and memory impairment, and fertility and pregnancy concerns among others.

Based upon current findings, many governments, such as Canada, Finland, France, India, Israel, the U.K., Russia, and Switzerland, are already proposing laws to limit advertising, suggesting usage guidelines and advising consumers to take precaution. Just two months ago, Israel’s parliament passed new legislation requiring labels on cell phones which caution that heavy use and carrying the device next to the body may increase the risk of cancer, especially among children. Your readers should know that, here in the U.S., manufacturers also expressly warn users not use their cell phones against their heads and bodies. Unfortunately these warnings are typically buried in fine print, so the majority of people are unaware and do not use their cell phones in the advised mannerr.

To briefly address your second question, let me again say that the majority of studies focus upon longer-term use and not short durations such as ten minutes. However, in 2011, an important study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that demonstrated just 50 minutes of use affected the brain in the area nearest the cell phone. So this shows that even shorter duration calls are likely having some eff ect on our brains. Once again, these results suggest that taking precaution is warranted.


How do Pong cases actually redirect radiation? Does this hurt the signal strength?
Those are two great questions. Let’s take the issue of redirection first. Your cell phone antenna emits microwave radiation in all directions. Studies have shown that over 50% of that radiation can be absorbed into your head and body when you’re on a call. Please remember this for the question on signal strength. For every mobile device we decide to support, our scientists design and custom build what we call a Coupled Antenna System. Each antenna system contains a flexible Printed Circuit Board (fPCB) consisting of an array of conductive elements on a polyamide substrate.

The antenna system is precisely engineered in size, shape and relative position unique to the characteristics of your specific mobile device’s internal cellular and Wi-Fi antennas. We embed our antenna system into a formfitting, lightweight case made of Lexan brand polycarbonate which provides outstanding mechanical strength and durability. Once a Pong case is placed on the mobile device, the Pong antenna system’s superior conductive property and its proximity to the mobile device’s internal antenna redirects the device’s near-field radiation toward our antenna system and away from your head and body. As a result, your exposure to the emitted radiation is reduced by as much as 95% below the FCC limit as measured by the Specific Absorption Rate or SAR.

Now this takes us to the second question. Remember that when using a cell phone without a Pong case, the absorption of radiation by the user can be over 50% of the emitted radiation which is measured as Total Radiated Power (TRP). The absorbed radiation, which can no longer be used for communications, creates a signal “dead zone” on the side of the head opposite the phone. When Pong’s antenna system redirects the radiation away from your head and body, that radiation is also redistributed to create a more diffusive signal pattern that can better propagate around the head. The result is a more uniform radiation pattern in the far field, which enables better communication with the nearest cell tower. This is what makes our technology so unique. In addition to the user, Pong cases also protect the cell phone signal.

Historically, most attempts at protecting people from radiation have focused on blocking or shielding the radiation. This is the last thing you should do to your phone. Unfortunately, even standard cell phone cases can have this effect. Depending upon the materials they’re made of, they can both reduce the phone’s signal, and actually increase the radiation exposure to the user.

Also worth noting, Pong cell phone and iPad cases are independently tested in FCC certified labs. Pong is also recommended by respected third-party (i.e., Wired.com) review organizations that have tested and proven the efficacy of our patented technology.

Once radiation is directed away from a person’s head, where does it go?
This is also a great question since people struggle to visualize how radiation moves. Cell phone microwaves are radio frequency (RF) waves which travel out from the transmission source or antenna. When Pong technology redirects and redistributes the cell phone’s near-field electromagnetic field, the primary goal is to get this more intense “near-field” radiation away from the head of the user.

Some consumers may be concerned that this “redirected radiation” might increase exposure to people nearby. While this concern is understandable, it is not warranted. First of all, Pong does not “beam” the radiation away from the user and toward the opposite direction as some people would imagine. Instead, the radiation forms or propagates around the user’s head in a more uniform pattern. Furthermore, cell phone radiation intensity diminishes rapidly with the distance away from the antenna, following what is called the inverse square law, where the intensity of radiation is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source, which is the antenna in this case. So radiation that is ten inches from the antenna is 100 times less intense that the radiation which is one inch from the antenna. Our lab testing shows that even on the side of the phone opposite the head, the redistributed radiation from a Pong case is less intense than a phone without a Pong case at a distance of only a half an inch away from the case.



Are smart phones more dangerous than other cell phones?
The amount of radiation emitted by your phone depends upon a number of factors including the type of phone you have, your distance to the cell tower and, as I said, even what kind of case you use. Smart phones transmit more data than the typical phone and are usually equipped with Wi-Fi, so you are exposed to more sources of radiation. People often compare cell phones to microwave ovens, which are more powerful than cell phones, just to show how safe cell phones are. However, they’re forgetting that microwave ovens contain most of their radiation while cell phones don’t try to contain radiation at all. In reality, the average oven does leak some radiation. Interestingly, the California Council on Science and Technology compared microwave emissions to cell phones just last year. They found that talking on the cell phone equates to standing one foot away from more than six operating microwaves. We also found a study on radiation leakage from microwave ovens and compared that to a cell phone and found that talking on your cell phone in an area with poor reception is the equivalent of holding your head 1.26 inches away from the average microwave while it is cooking. I somehow think most of us would not be comfortable doing that for 30 minutes at a time. Yet we often do the equivalent when talk on our cell phones.

It’s really important to note that the current safety standard on cell phone radiation exposure only deals with the heating − or thermal – effects of the cell phone. That’s really all that Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) measures. While that’s important, most scientists we speak to are much more concerned about the nonthermal effects of exposure which have been shown to occur at a much lower radiation level than the current safety limit. For years detractors have been saying that there was no proof of non-thermal effects from lowpower devices. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, the groundbreaking study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which confirmed that just 50 minutes of cell phone use affects the metabolism of the brain in the area closest to the phone, could not necessarily be explained by thermal effects. Many scientists are now calling for the U.S. government to reconsider the current methods of measuring and monitoring cell phone radiation.

Pong Research is based in LA and Virginia. What made Pong decide that this was a good place to be?
Pong did maintain a laboratory in Los Angeles prior to this year. However, once we organized, the decision was immediately made to consolidate that lab with our headquarters in Leesburg, Virginia. The move was completed by the end of 2011 as planned.

I’ve operated a west coast business before, as well as a bi-coastal operation, and I’m not a fan of the time-zone challenges, added travel requirements, and lack of face-to-face interaction between management. When we were assessing location for Pong Research, we first created a short list of possible locations for the company and obviously included California since we were already established there. However, the Northern Virginia/D.C. area ultimately proved to be an obvious choice for a number of reasons, including the favorable business and tax climate versus California; better housing, schools, and cost of- living dynamics for employees; proximity to potential customers who also tend to be on the east coast; and the rich talent pool along the Dulles corridor. Admittedly, I was concerned that we might lose some key people once we announced the move as I know how committed some Californians are to their lifestyles. Fortunately, every full time employee in our west coast office agreed to locate once they visited the area. Th at not only says a lot about how committed our employees are to the company, it also speaks favorably to this region as a business location and place to live.

With Pong’s newest influx of investments, what does the future hold for Pong Research? Any new products we should look out for?
We recently launched a new Pong case for the iPad and iPad 2 3G in December 2011 and created quite a stir. These innovative new products solve the transmission problem created by other cases, including Apple’s own, which caused a proximity sensor in the device to reduce the transmission power by up to 75%. Our case design not only resolves this problem, but also reduces exposure to the 3G radiation by up to 82% below the FCC limit. Something else new for us is that we’re also addressing Wi-Fi radiation, so our iPad and iPhone cases now reduce exposure from Wi-Fi, as well as the 3G cellular signal.

Pong’s global reception has also been quite positive. We’ve sold cases in more than 50 countries outside the U.S., even though we only support a domestic website at this time. Since around 20% of our sales are already international, we’ll be using part of our funding to continue expanding our international presence in the near future.

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