SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 2013 Highlights Vital Role of Photonics for Defense and Commercial Applications

Capabilities essential to the work of first responders, military forces, researchers, and manufacturers were on display last week at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing (DSS), the largest annual international meeting featuring light-based technologies for defense and commercial applications. DSS 2013 drew more than 6,000 registered attendees and nearly 500 companies to Baltimore, illustrating the essential role the event plays in the development of mission-critical, dual-use technologies such as night-vision and thermal-imaging devices used to thwart terrorism, and chemical-sensing systems for rapid risk assessment in man-made disasters.

BALTIMORE, Maryland, and BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA May 06, 2013


SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing (DSS), with over 6,000 registered attendees in Baltimore last week, highlighted the importance of photonics technologies in defense and commercial applications. Established in the late 1970s, the annual event draws international participants from government, industry, and academia.

"The robust participation in DSS -- even with budget cuts around the world and sequestration and government travel restrictions in the U.S. -- is a clear expression of the value placed on advancing and employing these technologies for the most challenging of applications across the industrial and security sectors," said Andrew Brown, SPIE Senior Director for Business Development.

The exhibition showcasing 490 companies provided a well-stocked marketplace for IR systems, lasers, and advanced optics. Building on the event's Baltimore debut in 2012, the number of visitors to the exhibit increased again this year, and exhibitors had positive comments about the quality of leads. 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."

Highlights of the technical symposium included presentations by plenary speaker Arati Prabhakar, director of DARPA, and banquet speaker and DSS Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Letitia Long, director of the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Prabhakar described future solutions to security needs as being "full of photons," telling her audience of photonics professionals, "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."

She illustrated what she termed the "virtuous cycle (of) defense needs and commercial opportunity" with numerous photonics examples resonant with topics being reported in conference rooms -- night vision equipment, smart prostheses, cyber security systems, and more. (See a video of Prabhakar's talk at http://spie.org/DARPAtalk).

"Working with this community has resulted in innovations that have saved lives," Long said in her talk. "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."

Symposium Chair Kenneth Israel (Major General, USAF Retired) and Cochair David Whelan (Vice President, Engineering, Boeing Defense, Space, and Security) had high praise for the quality of the nearly 2,250 technical presentations and the products and systems showcased in the exhibition.

Advanced sensors, IR technologies, flexible displays, "big data" and analysis, high-power lasers, cyber security, and bio-integrated devices were among well-attended topics in the conference rooms. A sampling of technical papers, video, and a photo gallery are posted in daily reports from on-site at http://spie.org/DSSnews.

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs gave the exhibitor community an in-depth analysis of the U.S. defense budget and urged the community to get behind the launch of the National Photonics Initiative (NPI).

The NPI is a key recommendation of the recent National Academies study "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation." It is intended to increase visibility of the role of photonics in economic growth and ensure long-term government funding for photonics-based research.

Funding and budgets are always of great interest at DSS, and travel restrictions were a leading topic of discussion this year. Attendees said they see current U.S. restrictions depriving government scientists and engineers of opportunities to stay abreast of the latest developments. The results, they contend, will be a slowing of adoption and deployment of life-saving technologies, and ultimately a compromised U.S. defense capability.

A plea from the community was for policy-makers to provide waivers for government personnel to attend technical meetings such as DSS where the seeds of future capabilities are sown.

DSS will stay in the Baltimore Convention Center for the foreseeable future, with next year's meeting running 5-9 May. The 2014 call for papers will open in July, with expanded tracks on commercial applications for sensing and imaging technologies.

"The strength of the conference and exhibition validates relocation of the event to Baltimore, in close proximity to a high density of government, industry, and academic institutions," Brown said.

Accepted papers are being published in the SPIE Digital Library as soon as approved and in print volumes and digital collections.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.

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