SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing

Baltimore (Maryland, USA) Convention Center
29 April-3 May 2013


Video features

Arati Prabhakar

Arati Prabhakar (DARPA) plenary talk (54:36)

Letitia Long Letitia Long (NGA) banquet keynote talk (29:15)
Walter Jones

Walter Jones (ONR) interview clip (1:28)

LaserMotive LaserMotive VTOL demonstration (3:17)


Photo gallery


Friday 3 May

Thursday 2 May

Wednesday 1 May

Tuesday 30 April

Monday 29 April


Friday 3 May

A great week!

SPIE DSS in Baltimore

The robust participation in SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 2013  -- even with budget cuts in many parts of the world and sequestration and government travel restrictions in the U.S. -- was a clear sign of the value placed on advanced sensing, IR, laser, and display technologies for both defense and commercial applications.

With more than 6,000 total registered attendance and 490 exhibiting companies, attendees took away valuable insights on the latest research in the area as well as new connections for suppliers and customers. (Above, an audience member raises a question during the symposium plenary Q&A.)

As longtime SPIE exhibitor Michael Myers, president of Kigre, Inc., said, "I could have left after the first day -- we had so many leads. This show has been great for us."

And Uri Abrams, CEO of PD-LD was among those with a positive experience as well: "We had many visitors looking for money-saving options," he said. "And we were happy to help."

 Read more in the SPIE press release.

Award papers

Friday conference activity included presentation of the final two of five awards presented in the conference on Independent Component Analyses, Compressive Sampling, Wavelets, Neural Net, Biosystems, and Nanoengineering, chaired by Harold Szu (U.S. Army Night Vision & Electronic Sensors Directorate). Each of the award presentations throughout the conference is accompanied by an invited paper by the winner and a panel discussion on issues related to the work. See more photos from the presentations in the event photo gallery.

Yoshihiki Sasai
Yoshiki Sasai, above,
was one of five authors
winning awards for
their papers.

This year's winners and their papers are:

  • Wavelet Pioneer Award: Hans Georg Feightinger (University of Vienna), "Group theoretical methods and wavelet theory (coorbit theory and applications)"
  • Unsupervised Learning ICA Pioneer Award: Hiroshi Sawada (NTT Communication Science Lab), "Audio source separation with multiple microphones on time-frequency representation"
  • Compressive Sampling Pioneer Award: Justin Romberg (Georgia Institute of Technology), "Blind deconvolution using convex programming"
  • Nanoengineering and Implementation Award: David Gracias (Johns Hopkins University), "Three-dimensional self-assembly at the nanoscale"
  • Biomedical Wellness Applications Award: Weichuan Yu (Hong Kong University of Technology), "Low-rank modeling and its applications in medical image analysis"
  • Systems of Biology Award: Yoshiki Sasai (RIKEN Center of Developmental Biology), "Embryonic stem cells self-assembly model"


Thursday 2 May

Back for more

The exhibition opened for Day 3 and more opportunities to connect customers with suppliers of photonics systems and devices, and researchers who found potential collaborators for commercializing their ideas.

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing Exhibition


What's next?

With the technical program still going strong on Thursday, both the printed technical program and the SPIE Conferences app play a part in planning the day.

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing


Sensors for healing

Among presentations, Zhenan Bao of Stanford University reported her lab's devlopemnt of flexible, stretchable, and self-healing pressure sensors on a substrate she calls "super skin." These could sense temperature and humidity, for example, to monitor stress in real time. Printed layer by layer, they could be equipped with an antenna to wirelessly transmit data to the doctor's office.


Say it with posters

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing poster session

The second of the week's poster receptions drew a large crowd for one-on-one conversations with authors about their work. (See more in the photo gallery.)


Wednesday 1 May

The 'wow' factor

Demonstrations of virtual reality training, precision aerospace tracking, and a high-powered micro-copter dazzled exhibition visitors in the exhibition hall, as traffic continued to be steady and exhibitors reported meeting quality leads. (See more on the demonstrations by Virtusphere, MARS, and LaserMotive (below) in the photo gallery.



Flexible photonics

Among many noteworthy papers on Wednesday were two from the conference on Flexible Electronics.

James Sturm of Columbia University described his lab's work on a flexible electronic "flying carpet" -- a project begun several years ago as a PhD project of coauthor Noah Jafferis (now at Harvard). It's made of a flexible sheet that propels itself forward and lifts itself off the ground by the application of electrical inputs. The device consists of a thin sheet of a piezoelectric polymer, electrically driven to move in a traveling wave shape.

Sturm described the observed propulsive forces and forward motion, as well as requirements for lift. He said he has learned more about friction that he had ever expected to, in the process of figuring out how to overcome it. The currently 2-inch by 4-inch prototypes have been shown to work, with a possible capability of carrying a payload of 2 grams. It's a long way from having the ability to carry a human, but Sturm speculated that such capacity would require a sheet the size of a large room.


Bio-integration: human-machine interface

John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign gave a compelling presentation Wednesday afternoon on progress in what he terms "epidermal electronics."

Current bio-integrated devices, he said, are relatively simple. They are typically CMOS boxes with a pair of wires that are attached to human tissue.

These current devices have many limitations. For instance, they aren't scalable to allow for multiple (possibly millions of) points of contact. The mismatch of the adhering interface with skin will cause skin irritation over time.

Further, current systems aren't practical, being heavy and cumbersome. So, the challenge became to seek something resembling the thickness and elasticity of a temporary tattoo.

The solution? An interweaving, serpentine, electronic matrix thin enough to adhere to skin via Van der Waals forces. Rogers showed examples of such a structure and how it could incorporate transistors and sensors. This can be attached directly to the skin, he said, and he demonstrated how the structure would deform with skin deformation.

To be sufficient for extreme conditions, such as monitoring hydration in athletes or soldiers, better adhesion in the form of a spray-on bandage becomes necessary.

He then showed how these devices could enable a human-machine interface by allowing a remote-control helicopter to be controlled by epidermal electronics attached to a subject's forearms. While research on power supplies is ongoing, he said, they are looking into both stretchable batteries and use of wireless far-field radiation as possible power sources.


Sensors for security

National Security Sensor Challenge

Among the week's several panel discussions was a high-level discussion on National Security Sensor Challenges, moderated by Symposium Cochair David Whelan. Panelists, from left, were Peter Highnam (IARPA), Walter Jones (Office of Naval Research), and Stefanie Tompkins (DARPA).


Commercialization: the early days

Panelists from U.S. government laboratories, venture capital community, and industry discussed ways to speed commercialization and deployment of early-stage defense and homeland security applications focused on mid-infrared technologies. For a high-tech startup, finding partners and collaborators is essential to expedite progress of a new idea toward the marketplace, noted panel moderator Joseph Montemarano (Princeton University).


Honored -- and enabled -- by photonics

Philip Stahl, Letitia Long, Ken Israel

Letitia Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, was presented with the DSS Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala banquet Tuesday evening; presenters (above) were SPIE President-Elect Philip Stahl, at left, and SPIE DSS Symposium Chair Ken Israel.

In describing the work of her agency in providing vital information for military strategists, policy decision-makers, and first responders, Long listed numerous ways that photonics enables their work.

"We are able to do what we do through our partnerships with you all in the room," Long said in her talk."Working with this community has resulted in innovations that have saved lives. It has turned big data into big value. You, in SPIE, are our partners. You continue to develop the sensors of the future, to help us with the integration of the innovation, to develop the automated tools as close to the primary data as possible. This enables our analysts the time to analyze information and deliver better knowledge, so policy makers have more options. This is about decision advantage."


David Brady, Philip Stahl

David Brady of Duke University (left) was presented with the 2013 Dennis Gabor Award, recognizing his development of compressive holographic and tomographic imaging systems, and for advances in the physical and information science of imaging and spectroscopy.

 See more photos from the banquet and preceding reception in the photo gallery.

Tuesday 30 April

It's open -- and bustling!

SPIE DSS exhibition

The three-day exhibition opened with nearly 500 companies on the floor and product demonstrations throughout each day. Want to see the latest in displays? This is defintely the place to be (above, a display at the Groupe Sofradir booth).

The exhibition includes the industry's leading suppliers of products for defense and commercial applications such as robotic systems, IR detectors, chemical sensors, high-speed imaging systems, lasers, night vision devices, advanced display technologies, explosives detection, and thermal cameras.

Among the demonstration highlights was LaserMotive's laser "power over fiber," or POF flight  of a superlight micro helicopter tethered to a fiber optic cable.

The miniature "quadrocopter" (with four blades) carried a mini-camera, the size of a thumbnail. Its 70 watts of DC current will step up to 400 watts later this year, when the tiny model gives way to a working unmanned, multirotor copter, still small enough to stow in an SUV.

See more photos in the photo gallery.


In the conference rooms

Technical talks continued in force on Tuesday, with particularly large audiences in the conferences on Laser Technology for Defense and Security, and Infrared Technology and Applications.

Among them, Adam Bartsch presented a paper on the Cleveland Clinic's development of an "intelligent mouthgard" -- a key tool in the long-term data-gathering project to address traumatic brain injury (TBI) among athletes.

Bartsch, director of the Head, Neck & Spine Research Lab at the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute, said that the broad vision of the project is to quantify what level of impact corresponds with what level of brain health. By outfitting a standard athletic mouthguard with MEMS sensors, a small computer and flash memory, data can be collected from athletes about the frequency and duration of impacts. What is termed "concussive impact accumulation" is suspected as a major contributor to eventual problems with cognition, vision, and other afflictions.

In an interview with SPIE Newsroom, Bartsch said that with advancements in low-cost sensors and miniaturization over the last decade, it's finally possible to begin accumulating what will eventually total trillions of data points. When correlated with clinical tests such as memory, balance, and eye tracking, a better understanding can be developed of ways that risks from head impacts can be reduced.


More on 'big data'

In a conference new to the program this year -- Next Generation Analyst -- Lee Giles asserted that it is an important step in the right direction that when computer scientists are brought together with the technologists who produce the capability to collect "big data."

Big data exists in many domains, and likely the earliest one was in the field of astronomy. But today the internet, and searches such as Google, can easily produce sets of big data in any field. Computer scientists not only develop methods to extract specific information from large data sets; they also develop the rules for scaling, moving and managing these data sets.


Mid-IR lasers

Broadband optical sources in the mid-IR are important for the technologies of defense and security. In the conference on Laser Technology for Defense and Security, the team of Hongyu Wu, Wenbo Li, and Niloy Dutta from the University of Connecticut reported on wide-band coherent supercontinuum generation as one process that can provide such an optical source.The process is driven by a short (femtosecond) pulse coupled into an optical fiber where nonlinear processes generate a broad output spectrum. The talk described a simulation for the analysis of the parameters that control and allow the optimization of this process.


Looking for jobs, looking for employees

job fair

The Job Fair sponsored by the SPIE Career Center was a popular corner of the exhibition hall, with representatives from organizations including Microsoft, BAE Systems, and MIT on hand to recruit potential employees.


The future is bright 

Ankit Arya, Firooz A. Sadjadi, Abhijit Mahalanobis
Ankit Arya, Mississippi State Univ. (left), received the best student paper award in the Automatic Target Recognition XXIII Conference for his paper titled, "Multi-kernel aggregation of local and global features in long-wave infrared for detection of SWAT teams in challenging environments."  Also pictured are conference chairs Firooz Sadjadi, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs (middle), and Abhijit Mahalanobis, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (right).

Entrepreneurial vison

ECP reception
Among those gathered for the Early Career Professionals reception were (from left) Mark Stahl, John Van Der Laan, Philip Stahl, Robert Kester, and Eustace Dereniak.

Co-founder of Rebellion Photonics Robert Kester shared the story of his journey of launching a startup company. From meeting his business partner Allison Sawyer in school at Rice University to winning multiple startup competitions, including one in Thailand, Robert's story inspired the audience of students and early career professionals. As an successful entrepreneur who started his company in a pub and now has 2.4 million in projected revenue, he gave the group an inspirational look into the world of entrepreneurship.

IR imaging ... what's going on in Camden Yards?

Ophir Optics
Exhibiting companies Ophir Optics, Raytheon, and Selex Galileo hosted receptions in their hotel suites, showcasing the latest in infrared imaging. Cameras focused on Camden Yards, the Rusty Scupper Restaurant in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and a smokestack approximately 5 miles away, showcased the imaging accomplished beyond the range of human sight. View the remarkable photos in the event photo gallery.


Monday 29 April

Big start ... and a 'small' topic

The SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing week began with rain showers and a flood of attendees who streamed into the convention center for the first day's sessions.

Among the first papers of the week was a report on a tiny satellite with a sensor just over 16 inches long set to launch in Hawaii this fall.

DSS speakers
Attendees had more than 2,240
technical talks from which to
choose as the week began;
above, Mark Stahl of NASA
Marshall Flight Center presents
on detection and ranging using
solvable chaos, in the Radar
Sensor conference.

Called the SUCHI, for Space Ultra Compact Hyperspectral Imager, it is a slimmed-down 2013 version of a 2012 design for the long-wave infrared hyperspectral vehicle.

As a very compact spectrometer that can characterize the geology of major rock-forming minerals on the Earth, the satellite is intended to enhance geological study from space, reported Sarah Crites of the University of Hawaii team working on the project. She spoke during the first session of the conference on Sensors and Systems for Space Applications.

An application that hits close to home for Hawaii residents involves sulfur dioxide, a gas constantly erupted by the active volcano Kilauea. Resulting aerosols called "vog" drift across the islands and cause respiratory complaints. Emissions can be tracked and quantified using a diagnostic feature in the 9 µm region. Additionally, that portion of the infrared is an ideal wavelength range for geologic mapping of important minerals.

This version of the spacecraft was designed to meet tightened mass and power constraints for the spacecraft. The team of scientists and engineers from the University of Hawaii was led by the principal investigator Robert Wright, a professor in the Hawaii Institute for Geophysics and Planetology.

Read more in the optics.org article.


Saliva: an emerging medical test site  

Several speakers at Monday sessions in the conference on Sensing Technologies for Global Health, Military Medicine and Environmental Monitoring described new approaches for study of saliva using mass spectrometry and other technologies.

Daniel Malamud of New York University who presented on a microfluidic card for field analysis of blood or other fluids. The card was developed in collaboration with Rheonix Inc., and uses a patented technology to move fluids in a precise manner through the card to detect proteins and nucleic acids, such as antibodies to HIV and HIV RNA.

Charles SteckfusBreast cancer applications were described by Charles Steckfus (at right), a professor of diagnostic sciences at the School of Dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. His studies suggest cancer-marker detection could one-day occur in the dentist's chair during oral screening.

He said the proteome in saliva offers a useful in vivo model of breast cancer progression, providing insights both into the individual patient and the genetics of the disease itself.

Breast cancer involves many genes, each with different functions at play.  A patient's saliva sample contains a basic profile of how the genes of that individual are modified during cancer treatment.

Read more in the optics.org article.


'Big data' ... or a new paradigm

In a keynote talk in the new conference titlede Next-Generation Analyst, Michael Kolodny, an independent senior technology advisor to ARL, gave his opinions on a new paradigm for military data exploitation. He asserted that current focus on "big data" is grossly misguided. Rather, he said, we should focus on autonomously accessing and synthesizing all relevant information into situational understanding that can help warfighters make effective decisions swiftly.

With the plethora of hard and soft data out there -- from sensors to social networks -- we are drowning in information, he said.  The key is not is gaining higher resolution, nor in gaining more data than is currently available. With the exponential growth of data acquisition and the extremely slow growth in numbers of analysts sifting through the data, we have an untenable situation. There is no way for us to effectively assemble the right data to facilitate decision making.

So Kolodny proposes a paradigm shift. Traditional DoD practice, he said, was to have very little data, most of which was relevant. Today, he said, the trend is toward more data, regardless of relevance.

Kolodny championed a new practice based on four cornerstones:

  • Autonomously access and synthesyze all relevant data into understanding.
  • Establish a "Nyquist rate" for all data, using only enough data for decision-making.
  • Judge the value of data sources based on their contribution to the data process.
  • Use data for understanding, not for perfect reconstructions of reality.

This new paradigm should begin and end with people, he said, not with technology. However, he concluded, this presents some interesting challenges: different types of people will come to different conclusions based on the same information. One must question of not just how much information is relevant, but what types of information and models are relevant. Modeling physical, emotional, and intuitive cues will be essential, and we will need to learn from relationship theory to better understand the relationships between data.

Energy havesting

In a Monday morning keynote talk in the conference on Energy Harvesting and Storage, DARPA program manager Brian Holloway discussed the topics of power and energy, focusing on the fuel of choice JP-8 (essentially jet fuel). The team replaced the batteries in a UAV with a small power pack using JP-8 which reduced the weight required for the energy source and increased the flying time by a factor of 2.

Holloway said they are working on a project to power the needs of a warfighter using a central power pack and distributing the power to various soldier tools (night vision, radio, flashlight, etc.) using RF antennas designed to produce energy hot spots around the warfighters body.

In the IR

Xenics presenterAn audience of around 200 in the IR Technology and Applications conference heard a talk from the Xenics team at left on the advantages of SWIR detectors: low noise and low light level. The company's latest sensor, with 1280x1024 pixels, a 17-micron pitch the chip size of 24 x30 mm, is their third design iteration. This sensor and its related electronics and this version has reduced power requirements.

Airborne sensor

In Next-Generation Spectroscopic Technologies, Specim spoke about their compact airborne sensor. The system weight has been reduced so that it can be flown on a UAV. The system operates over the range of 380-2500 nm, covering visible through SWIR range. The system has an adjustable integration time which allows it to accommodate a variable flying speed. Applications are defense and law enforcement (e.g., narcotic detection, illegal marijuana growth, IED's, disturbed ground, mineral mapping, etc.).

Data and decisions

Conferences on Ground/Air Multisensor Inoperability, Integration, and Networking for Persistent ISR and Next-Generation Analyst teamed up for a joint panel discusson on Decision-Driven Analysts.

Panel members discussed various approaches to understanding the complex relations between the human analysts, the data, and the real world consequences of decisions made based on the data presented. Five themes span this space of complexity:

  • the need for efficiency
  • information fusion
  • automation of analysis of textual material
  • automation of analysis of visual information
  • the context-driven decision process.

The past 10 years have seen large steps in the development of data fusion (data from different sources brought into one form of presentation to the analyst) but the field of Info fusion is still in its infancy.


Mapping the universe of photonics

SPIE Digital Library affinity map

The key to an effective literature search is a vital taxomony, and the SPIE Digital Library staff are inviting Defense, Security, and Sensing attendees to help update their search map. What relates to what? Stop by the SPIE Marketplace in the convention center registration area during the week, pick up a pen, and add your perspective.


Congratulations, new Fellows!

Sanjay Krishna

Nearly 60 Fellows of the Society welcomed six new Fellows at the SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing Fellows Luncheon. Sanjay Krishna (above), professor and Regents Lecturer of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of New Mexico's Center for High Technology Materials, was the featured speaker at the luncheon. Krishna recently co-founded SKINfrared, a start-up company that is leveraging advances in infrared imaging for applications in medicine.  His presentation was titled, "Infrared Imaging: From Defense to Medicine?"  Vew new Fellow photos in the photo gallery.


DARPA: driving surprises, creating a new generation

Ken Irael, Arti Prabhakar, David Whelen, Philip Stahl

"If we do our job, and you work with us, all of us get to be part of creating a whole new generation of technology for national security," DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar (second from left, above) told a capacity symposium plenary audience Monday afternoon. Prabhakar talked about the important role of photonics in current technologies, citing examples such as night vision. With applications such as fusing LWIR, SWIR, and VNIR technologies to exploit more of the electromagnetic spectrum, she said, "we own the night."

Prabhakar, who was founding director of the Microelectronics Technology Office at DARPA, was urged by audience members to consider establishing a similar office for photonics. Her response: "Please, bring us your great ideas."

With Prabhakar above, from left, are Symposium Chair Ken Israel, Cochair David Whelan, and SPIE President-Elect Philip Stahl.

Read more in the SPIE press release.

News coverage

People tracking with lasers (Industrial Laser Solutions, 13 May 2013)

The sequester, DARPA, and a new reality for U.S. defense R&D (Photonics Online, 7 May 2013)

Small is more: SWAP for soldier systems and unmanned vehicles dominates today's technology (Avionics Intelligence, 7 May 2013)

SPIE DS&S report (LaserMotive/LNJ Media, 7 May 2013)

DARPA chief issues call to arms in Baltimore (optics.org, 7 May 2013)

My 3 favorite technologies from SPIE DSS 2013 (Photonics Online, 6 May 2013)

DSS 2013: SiOnyx sees digitally with 'black' silicon (optics.org, 6 May 2013)

Xenics InGaAs SWIR detector is part of Proba-V space mission (Compound Semiconductor, 5 May 2013)

Aircraft system powered by laser over fiber (Aerospace Manufacturing and Design, 3 May 2013)

Small size, light weight for unmanned vehicle applications dominate technology at SPIE (Military & Aerospace News, 2 May 2013)

On the floor at SPIE Defense, Security & Sensing (NASA Tech Briefs, 2 May 2013)

DSS 2013: tiny drone flies on fiber-optic power (optics.org, 2 May 2013)

DSS 2013: thermal imaging meets consumer electronics (optics.org, 1 May 2013)

Defense, Security + Sensing 2013: Driving technological surprise (Novus Light Technologies, 30 April 2013)

DSS 2013: saliva emerges as medical test site (optics.org, 30 April 2013)

DSS 2013: hyperspectral sensor shows that small is beautiful (optics.org, 28 April 2013)

Explosives identification benefits from THz-Raman spectroscopy (Laser Focus World, 25 April 2013)

Microsatellites turn eyes to the sky (optics.org, 22 April 2013)

Thermal imaging helps nab bombing suspect (Photonics Media, 22 April 2013)

Preview: SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 2013 (Spectroscopy, 1 February 2013)

SPIE press releases

SPIE DSS SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 2013 highlights vital role of photonics for defense and commercial applications (6 May 2013)

DARPA director shares vision of a new generation of technology and commercial applications at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing (30 April 2013)

Photonics-enabled tools for forensic investigation to be advanced at SPIE DSS (17 April 2013)

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing exhibition, technical events will connect researchers and suppliers in Baltimore (8 April 2013)

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing thrives in Baltimore (19 March 2013)

SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing adds new topics for 2013 (11 September 2012)

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SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 2013 event website


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