The exhibition hall offered rich opportunity for listening to customers' challenges and discussing potential solutions.
BELLINGHAM, Washington, and BALTIMORE, Maryland, USA -- SPIE DSS, the premier event for photonics, optical sensing, and imaging on the East Coast, reaffirmed its value last week as a place for government program managers, researchers, applications developers, and industry suppliers to meet and advance the science and technology of sensing and imaging for multiple applications.
The event included 55 conferences in two tracks -- defense and security, and commercial and scientific sensing and imaging -- and an exhibition showcasing 382 exhibiting companies. Sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, the event ran 20-24 April in the Baltimore Convention Center and drew more than 5,100 registered attendees from academia, industry, and government labs worldwide.
Technologies included infrared, hyper- and multispectral imaging, quantum cascade lasers, fiber optics, data analysis for cyber-threat detection, and more - all exploring new research frontiers.
Synergy among established and newer fields, and opportunities for dual use including major growth in commercial and scientific markets were major themes.
"A lot of technology exists within the military and defense environment that is capable of being rolled out into the commercial world," said David Bannon, CEO of Headwall Photonics. "This event for us represents an opportunity to engage with researchers as well as leading deployers of the technology. We see such a mix of people from different branches of the defense community -- it's very important for us to have a presence here."
"This event was very special for IJK Controls: it was the first time we exhibited at any event," said CEO Gunnar Ristroph. "Our booth was busy for the entire show with people operating and experiencing our gimbal technology. We have attended and presented papers in the technical sessions in previous years, so we know how educated, connected, and creative the attendees here are. We had a wonderful time sharing our expertise in pointing, tracking and stabilization while learning about recent advances in sensors and optics."
Long-time exhibitors also noted the complementary value of the conferences with the exhibition.
"We gained the most benefit by listening to our customers' challenges in developing products or new research, providing us with an opportunity to discuss solutions" said Jim Moore, OFS Marketing Manager, Defense, Aerospace, Government and Power Utilities. "OFS has supported the defense market with optical-fiber-based products for nearly two decades. Partnerships formed here are certainly part of that success. Conferences such as this provide a great forum for business, government, and academia to collaborate both on the exhibit floor and in the technical sessions."
As valuable as the conference experience is, travel restrictions for U.S. government employees on attending conferences was a frustration echoed by many.
One said he was disappointed that their largest government customer wasn't able to get to the exhibit hall to see products in person because of travel funding headaches; where are "the uniforms?" asked another exhibitor.
Overflow attendance at two events with U.S. government speakers illustrated the value of community-wide communication.
On opening day, plenary speaker David Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Developmental Test and Evaluation, detailed photonics technologies, in particular sensors, that will be needed to provide crucial research and engineering capabilities for next-generation warfighters.
In an industry program presentation on Wednesday, William Chappell, Deputy Director of DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office, described how photonics technologies such as lasers, detectors, nonlinear optics, and silicon chips will shape the future. The next generation of microsystem technology will involve heterogeneous integration of blended electronic and optical designs, to facilitate requirements including personalization, rapid design and portability, and security, Chappell said.
A multi-day program of industry-oriented events provided guidance on commercializing and building strategic partnerships between industry and government, insights on new sensing and imaging technologies, and an update from SPIE analysts on the size of the photonics for defense industry.
A presenter from the U.S. Department of Commerce told how and why U.S. manufacturers should comment on anticipated proposed changes in export regulations controlling non-U.S. sales of key photonics technologies including lasers and sensors.
At the FLIR Center Stage on the exhibition floor, talks by documentary producer Louis Psihoyos and naturalist and television producer Casey Anderson demonstrated the multi-use capability of photonics, through their applications of specialty cameras for underwater, thermal, and chemical-sensing video.
SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 256,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014. www.spie.org
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