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  • DSS: Quantum Tech Boom Approaches
Apr 2007
ORLANDO, Fla., April 13, 2007 -- Describing the current era as one of technological opportunity equal to many in American history, panelists at the 2007 SPIE Defense & Security Symposium (DSS), being held this week in Orland, agreed that quantum technologies, powered by light, will be key to overcoming challenges and solving critical problems.

More than 5000 attended DSS, which ends today. The event is the largest unclassified conference and exhibition covering sensor technology, components, devices and systems for military and homeland security applications.More than 5000 attended the Defense & Security Symposium, which ends today. The DSS exhibition featured over 400 companies displaying components, devices and software poised to further this industry.

A packed and provocative Executive Forum on Tuesday evening explored the "The Next Tech Boom."

Moderated by John Carrano, DSS chair and vice president of R&D at Luminex Corp., the forum featured a stimulating keynote by Mark Mills, co-founder and chairman of the board of ICx Technologies Inc. The talk enticed audience questions and commentary from an expert panel made up of Maj. Gen. Steve Reeves, joint program executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense at the Department of Defense; Lynne Zydowsky, president and managing principal at Zydowsky Consultants of San Francisco; C. Kumar Patel, professor of physics and astronomy, University of California, Los Angeles, and chairman and CEO of Pranalytica Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif., maker of ultrasensitive trace gas detection instruments; and Allen Northrup, founder and CEO of MicroFluidic Systems Inc., a Fremont producer of automated instruments for the detection and processing of biological samples.

In opening remarks, Mills argued that as a society, we have reached a pivotal point, "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 US 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.
,br>Mills referenced similar pivotal historical moments when an existing technology suddenly accelerated innovation and achievement: the application of radio for air-to-ground communication in WWII (invented 1901), application of radar (invented 1923) also in that same war era. Another cited example was the advent of Apple Computer's embodiment of digital computing well after its invention in 1830.

Mills said today's technological infrastructure is "unlike anything imagined in the world of a half-century ago." He described many of the innovations seen at DSS as "the ultimate evidence of the confluence of these various paradigm shifts."

Mills also commented on the unique "fueling" combination of technology push (quantum technology "coming of age"), market pull (war effort, federal funding) and changes in geopolitics, coupled with the new character of innovation and entrepreneurship.

He said that the distributed and highly variable threats of terrorists, both in civilian and battlefield environments, "are now on the front lines of civilian concerns." 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.

Maj. Gen. Reeves confirmed Mills's depiction of the critical need for distributed defense solutions and said quantum technologies are crucial to that future. He described changes in how 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 said it is critical to resolve how to approach the vast amounts of data being generated.

Zydowsky said the advantage of companies in this industry is being able to leverage both venture capital and DoD dollars to build their portfolios for dual-use applications.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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