SOURCE: SPIE

April 13, 2007 10:39 ET

Quantum Technologies Bring on the Next Tech Boom

ORLANDO, FL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 13, 2007 -- Describing the current era as one of technological opportunity equal to many in American history, panelists at the SPIE Defense & Security Symposium this week agreed that quantum technologies, powered by light, will be key to overcoming challenges and solving critical problems.

The Defense & Security Symposium (DSS) is the largest unclassified conference and exhibition covering sensor technology, components, devices and systems for military and homeland security applications. The annual event in Orlando featured a packed and provocative Executive Forum Tuesday evening, exploring the potential of "The Next Tech Boom."

Moderated by Dr. John Carrano, DSS 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. The talk enticed audience questions and 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 Consultants; Dr. C. Kumar Patel, Pranalytical, Inc. and UCLA; and Dr. Allen Northrup, Founder and CEO of MicroFluidic Systems, Inc.

In 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 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." The DSS exhibition featured over 400 companies displaying components, devices, and software all poised to further this industry.

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.

Panelist Major General Reeves confirmed Mills's 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 said it's critical to resolve how to approach the vast amounts of data 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.

More than 5,000 attended the Defense & Security Symposium, which ends Friday 13 April. Full details about the technical program, executive forum and exhibition are online now at http://spie.org/events/dss

SPIE is an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light. SPIE organizes events including SPIE Advanced Lithography, Photonics West, Photomask, OptiFab, Defense & Security Symposium, Optics & Photonics, Optics East, Photonics Europe and many others. SPIE also publishes journals, books and conference proceedings, with over 235,000 technical papers available for download via the SPIE Digital Library. See SPIE.org for details.

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