Photo courtesy of Cyalume.

Photo courtesy of Cyalume.

Sometimes the smallest, least expensive tools can make a big difference for law enforcement officers in the field. That's what the executives at Cyalume hope to achieve with the company's new VisiPad.

From its name, the VisiPad sounds like it might be an accessory for Apple's ubiquitous iPad tablet computer, but it's actually a chemical illumination marker. Like a lightstick, the VisiPad is a chemically activated illumination tool. Unlike a lightstick, however, the VisiPad is flat, has clear adhesive on one side, and can be written on.

Jack Sullivan, Cyalume's vice president of sales and marketing, and a former New York state trooper, says the Visipad was developed to meet the needs of the U.S. military. What the military wanted from Cyalume was an easily portable, rectangular, illuminated marker that could be written on with a Sharpie or a grease pen.

Sullivan says the toughest part of developing the product was finding a way to prevent it from accidentally activating. Cyalume spent more than a year developing the technology and finally came upon the idea of placing the activation chemical in a pouch that would break when the VisiPad is given a hard flex.

The primary application for VisiPad was to be battlefield triage of wounded troops. That's why so many colors of VisiPad are available and why the flat markers are designed to be easily carried in a field medical pouch. But the military and other users quickly found the VisiPad to be extremely versatile.

In addition to triage, the VisiPad and VisiPad IR are being used by the military to mark "friendly" units, note which rooms have been cleared in a building, and designate the presence of unexploded ordnance or enemy IEDs for EOD operations. And Sullivan believes many more applications will be discovered by Cyalume's customers.

"The applications for the VisiPad are really only limited by the imagination of the user. We put it in people's hands and they find more ways to use it than we can dream up ourselves," says Sullivan.

Already, the VisiPad is being used by law enforcement for evidence marking and accident reconstruction. "Some of our customers like to use the VisiPad to mark the location of skidmarks at accident scenes for standoff photography." Sullivan says the clear 3M adhesive on the back of the VisiPad is strong enough to hold on a road even during a thunderstorm. Yet he has successfully removed the markers from painted walls and vehicles with little or no paint damage. The adhesive is even safe on skin.

Cyalume is finding that the technology used in the VisiPad is actually performing better than the military specifications for the product, says Sullivan. "The Mil-Spec is for 10 hours of useable light. The VisiPad can last for 10 times that amount. We have seen them produce decent marking light for more than four days."

Sullivan believes Cyalume is just beginning to scratch the surface of the capabilities for its flat chemical light technology. "It can scale up to the size of a sheet of an 8 x 10 paper and down to much smaller than the current 4 x 3 size," he explains.

The VisiPad started shipping in May. It sells in boxes of 25 units, and the military price is about $1 per unit. "We like that the VisiPad has a low total cost of ownership and that it delivers a lot of value. It's a high-quality product at a very reasonable price," Sullivan says.