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    Wednesday, 11 April

    A New Generation of Sensor Technologies Poised for Market

    Xi-Cheng Zhang, Center for THz Research, School of Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in a talk titled Broadband THz Wave Photonics for Defense and Security Applications explained several of the advances his group at RPI have made in developing and using free-space THz waves to detect dangerous substances. A large number of explosive compounds have signatures in 0.5-5THz range because their molecular level transitions & phonon bands are uniquely identifiable. Complex compounds like HMX, RDX, PETN, TNT, & TATP/PE pellets can all be identified in THz absorption spectrum, though atmospheric water bands present detection problems in the low signal-to-noise regime. Zhang characterized current detection capabilities as remaining in the "bulk detection realm" - micro grams as opposed to trace detection.

    Zhang's surprising advance is to use nonlinear effects in air to generate THz radiation with an optical laser. This allows stand-off detection ranges to approach 100m. His team is addressing the remaining problems with the method, namely the low field signal to noise - 10^3-10^4, an upper frequency cutoff of 4 THz, and limited bandwidth under 3 THz. While their current results focus on absorption spectra, their goal is to develop effective detection methods using reflected THz radiation, since that has more significant real world applications for scanning and detection.

    photo SPIE Defense & Security delegate (right) tests a helmet-mounted display to help dismounted infantry troops increase their situational awareness in both battlefield and training environments.

    The SPIE Defense and Security Exhibition, which began yesterday, drew nearly 400 vendors of near IR, IR, ThZ, and other components, devices, systems and services for sensors and sensor networks. Several vendors, recognizing the importance of the SPIE Defense & Security Exhibition as a venue for relaying news about current developments to their customers, have taken the opportunity to announce new products. Milpitas-based JDSU, continues to diversify away from their traditional focus on components and devices for the telecom industry by rolling out a new line of optical filters targeting applications in the aerospace, defense and biomedical industries.

    "JDSU's proprietary UCP-1 technology is the key to allowing us to provide our customers with the highest quality filter designs," said Carla Feldman, marketing manager for JDSU's advanced optical technologies. "The UCP-1 platform allows unprecedented levels of manufacturing scalability that will bring high performance and cost effective solutions to our customers serving the aerospace, defense and biomedical industries."

    New York City-based L-3 Communications Infrared Products and Colorado Springs-based Black Forest Engineering showcased images from the first uncooled focal plane array (FPA) with 1024 x 768 pixel resolution. Any advances in thermal imaging performance should bring substantial benefits to users: significantly longer viewing range, appreciably greater scene detail and considerably more capable electronic zoom.

    The 1024 x 768 BFE262 FPA was developed by prime contractor Black Forest Engineering (BFE) on a Phase II SBIR for NASA Langley under contract number NNL05AA11C.


    Tuesday, 10 April

    Quantum Technologies Featured at SPIE Defense & Security could Usher Next Tech Boom

    photo SPIE Defense & Security 2007 Executive Forum moderator Mark Mills, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of ICx Technologies, Inc. discusses the promise of quantum technology with invited panelists and an audience of managers and executives in the defense and security industry.

    The highlight of Tuesday at the SPIE Defense & Security Symposium was the evening Executive Forum titled The Next Tech Boom.

    Moderated by Dr. John Carrano, Defense & Security Symposium Chair and Vice President of R&D at Luminex Corporation, the Forum featured a stimulating keynote by Mark Mills, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of ICx Technologies, Inc.. Mills enticed audience questions and insightful commentary from an expert panel made up of Major General Steve Reeves, Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense for the DoD, Dr. Lynne Zydowsky, Zydowsky Consultant, Dr. C. Kumar Patel, Pranalytical, Inc. and UCLA, and Dr. Allen Northrup, Founder and CEO of MicroFluidic Systems, Inc.

    In his opening remarks, Mills argued that we as a society have reached a pivotal point now, "where we begin the ramp up of the proverbial 'hockey-stick' growth curves that revolutionize entire sectors of an economy." He described this new economic category loosely as "Homeland Security" and noted that many of the key tactical imperatives for security and force protection in the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Defense are addressable, in large measure, only with the capabilities of quantum technologies, driven by the quantum nature of light.

    Mills referenced similar pivotal historical moments when an existing technology suddenly skyrocketed innovation and achievement forward: the 1901 application of radio for air to ground communication in WWII, which was invented in 1901, application of radar,invented in 1923, also in that same war era. Another sited example was the advent of Apple Computer's embodiment of digital computing well after its invention in 1830.

    Mills described today's technological infrastructure, including "machine tools, devices, software and systems, as emerging from America's techno-capital, entrepreneurial infrastructure…unlike anything imagined in the world of a half-century ago." He regards many of the innovations seen in the SPIE Defense & Security Symposium as, "the ultimate evidence of the confluence of these various paradigm shifts."

    Mills also remarked that the coming of age of quantum technology, combined with demand driven by recent global conflicts and increased federal funding to mitigate these conflicts, have fuelled innovation and commercialization in ways that has eroded the traditional distinctions between, research, development and commercialization.

    Mills added that distributed and highly variable threats of terrorists, both in civilian and battlefield environments, sometimes referred to as asymmetric conflicts, are the prime drivers of demand for exotic technologies in the defense and security marketplace. "The change that drives the new threat paradigm is the fact that all of these threats are now on the front lines of civilian concerns as well." To address this concern, Mills described the new phenomenon of an emerging security industry being augmented by significant federal investments as well as "enormous" venture capital investment.

    Major General Reeves confirmed Mills depiction of the critical need for distributed defense solutions and noted that quantum technologies are crucial to that future. He described changes to the way the DoD is approaching the need for rapid solutions to problems or threats by creating a path for more rapid study of "fly off" technologies such as biometrics. Reeves also commented on the critical need to resolve how to approach the vast amounts of data that are being generated.

    Zydowsky, an experienced executive involved in launching and building several successful life sciences companies, commented on the advantage of companies in this industry being able to leverage both VC and DoD dollars to build their portfolios for dual use applications.

    Northrup commented that he saw a critical need to address the still-existing gap between engineering and biological problems. He also commented on the benefits and negatives of government investment including the positive of that there is no dilution of the dollar investment. Ongoing problems include the significant bureaucracy and uncertain sustainability of funding.


    Monday, 9 April

    Biometric Recognition Takes Center Stage at SPIE Defense & Security 2007

    photo Delegates at SPIE Defense and Security 2007 in Orlando wine, dine, and catch up with colleagues at the Monday Evening Welcome Reception

    SPIE Defense & Security Symposium, the largest unclassified conference and exhibition covering sensor technology for military and homeland security applications, began in Orlando, Florida this morning. Event organizers anticipate attendance figures to approach 5,000 scientists, engineers and military personnel. The Symposium is made up of over 1,800 presentations, 55 courses, and several workshops, panels and plenary talks covering the latest unclassified research on enabling technologies and applications for sensors and detectors for homeland security and defense.

    Over 400 suppliers of military- and homeland security-related components, systems, devices and services will be on hand from Tuesday through Thursday. Evening speakers include former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig; author, venture capitalist and detection-technology executive Mark Mills, Chairman of ICx; and Major General Steve Reeves, Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense, U.S. Department of Defense.

    Monday at SPIE Defense & Security kicked off with a full slate of technical conferences, courses and special events. An interesting panel discussion took place in the afternoon as part of the conference on Biometric Technology for Human Identification chaired by Salil Prabhakar, Digital Persona Inc., and Arun A. Ross, West Virginia Univ.

    Dan Nickell, National Biometric Security Project, began the panel discussion by outlining the 20 major implementations of large biometric system applications worldwide. He then spoke in greater detail of several case studies, one of which is the Pinellas County Florida Correction Facility system, which handles nearly 60,000 bookings a year.

    To mitigate the errors and cost inefficiencies of their previous tracking system, previously based on fingerprinting techniques and paper files, officials implemented a face recognition system. The application expanded beyond the correctional facility to mobile units in police cars and airports. At 4.5 million constituent records officials claim to have the largest database of felony criminals in the US.

    The panel ended with a talk by Michael Garris, leader of the NIST Imaging Group, on research on biometric recognition systems scientists and engineers at NIST have been doing for the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, much of which he could not talk about. Garris, however, did support the conclusions of the previous speakers that all conditions need to be considered. For example, there are established standards, through NIST and ANSI, for fingerprint systems, but no such standards exist for IRIS or face or handprint systems today. Moreover, while fingerprint identification is still the most commonly used biometric recognition application, much work still needs to be done to develop latent and partial fingerprint ID applications.