The War on Terrorism Is Big Business

E-mail Tom Kevan

Every day I scan the Web for technical, financial, and strategic developments involving sensor technology. Recently one thing has jumped out at me: the amount of activity and money involved in homeland security, defense, and intelligence technology.

The Scope
Just this past month, at least 20 major news releases have scrolled across my computer screen, recounting patents, investments, business alliances, deployments, and product launches of high-tech defense systems. Ever since September 11, 2001, we've been inundated with news stories about the "war on terrorism." It's gotten to the point that we don't take notice of the enormous scope of these activities, and it's easy to be unaware of just how much we have invested.

Next month, Boston hosts the Nanotech for National Security symposium. The list of organizations providing speakers gives you an idea of the resources involved in this high-tech shadow war. They include the following:

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    Case Western Reserve University
    Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
    Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Canada
    Harvard Medical School
    Institute of Biomedical Engineering, United Kingdom
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Navy Naval Research Lab
    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
    Tel Aviv University
    University of California-Berkeley
    University of California-Irvine
    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
And the symposium focuses on only a single nascent technology.

To get a better idea of what I'm talking about, consider a few of this month's leading stories dealing with homeland security, defense, and intelligence technology.

InfrAegis unveiled a national security and public safety communications system with the ability to detect a variety of hazardous threats, deploy prescripted countermeasures, and provide a first-responder communications system to ensure reliable broadcasting in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack or natural disaster. The system is designed for installation in cities, transportation systems, airports, and buildings, as well as corporate and university campuses and sports and entertainment venues. InfrAegis' claims its system provides a safety ring of detection for nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, explosive, and other hazardous threats by using an array of cutting-edge hazard-detection sensors and cameras.

On another front, Raytheon just completed Project Athena, an operational demonstration along the southwest border of Texas to provide "persistent multi-domain surveillance and actionable intelligence to a joint interagency task force in support of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) law enforcement agencies." Raytheon says its multi-sensor, multi-source information system detected, intercepted, and deterred transnational threats, drugs, and alien smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border over a large area, including 160 miles of coastline, 120 miles of land border, and nine ports of entry.

Finally, in the last story, Sionex Corp., a company focused on commercializing breakthrough chemical and biological sensors and systems, announced a strategic investment and development agreement with In-Q-Tel , a private venture group funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Big Bang for Big Bucks
My point is that a lot of resources and money are involved in the homeland security and security technology arenas. Scott L. Greiper, former Senior Analyst for Global Security at C.E. Unterberg, Towbin, and current head of Legend Merchant Group's Convergent Security Group, observed that the surging homeland security, defense, and intelligence technology industry is one of the world's fastest growing economic sectors. "In 2005, more than $6.5 billion was raised and invested in security and security-related companies," says Greiper.

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