Homeland security market steady
Posted by John McHale
At the GovSec show in Washington last week many of the exhibitors felt the market to be strong and growing but not a boom like it was perceived to be when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
We thought it might be stronger market as well when we launched Homeland Security Solutions magazine and a show of the same name. It turned out that while there was a lot of buzz instead of targeting technology development, most funding was spent on overtime and other "boots and bullets" costs, which were a much more immediate concern.
Over the last few years we and from what I saw last week the industry has learned that homeland security is different than defense. Whereas primes, subcontractors, and the media originally foresaw the DHS as a Department of Defense (DOD) like entity it was in fact quite different.
Jerry Buckwalter, Northrop Grumman's vice president of homeland security told me about a year ago that When DHS first came on the scene it was a top-down approach with the federal government expected to provide all the money.
"Well it's changing and the local communities and states are realizing that if they are sitting around waiting for federal grants they will probably never see them," he said. "They need to aggressively pursue the programs themselves. They're realizing homeland security begins close to home" - and they are gaining the political will to do what they need to do for their communities.
Bruce Walker, also a vice president of homeland security at Northrop Grumman echoed similar things this year. He said they are working a great deal with local first responders on information sharing, perimeter security through the Land Ports of Entry program, and setting up wireless applications with the first being New York City last year and London this year.
There is a wealth of electronics content being developed for homeland security applications. Some of it is leveraged from the military like unmanned systems and infrared technology and some of it is being developed initially for public safety applications.
Buckwalter explained to me last year that "public safety is a different concept than managing warfare." There are many constraints and limitations, and public will is involved - "that's why technology transfer doesn't always work from DOD to DHS." The technology is fine, it is the policies and procedures, congress, etc., that get in the way. There is pretty much a COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) mindset all the way now; it is just a matter of how to manage costs, he said.
Video, while not a new medium, is new to many first responder and military personnel. Video, especially via the Internet, is increasingly being used in military and homeland security environments. We too, the editors of Military & Aerospace Electronics, are using video more and more.
We're always working diligently to deliver the community the most comprehensive industry and technology information possible. Today, that means accentuating news stories with informative and illustrative videos. Take a look at this week's news stories on iRobot and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, as examples.
Doubtless, we're not the only ones benefitting from the data-delivery power of video. VBrick Systems Inc. of Wallingford, Conn., for example, is delivering live Internet video technologies to first responders.
VBrick Systems, together with CommsFirst Inc., provide "eyes-on-the-scene" video to assist first responders with situational awareness and readiness. VBoss, VBrick's online Video Streaming as a Service (VSasS), is designed to increase viewer participation of an event by streaming content live.
CommsFirst will promote VBoss to offer pre-event readiness training and provide first-responders with video imagery that is critical to decision-making during and after an event. The VBrick Online Streaming Service platform enables CommsFirst to provide eyes-on-scene, training, and enable video capture and Internet TV delivery for improved situational awareness and readiness. The combined solution brings critical video content to first responder personnel anywhere, in real-time.
Still addicted to a crazy game Posted by John McHale
I just finished another Spring Golf Trip, lost another couple dozen lost balls, donated another $100 to a low-handicapper's kid's college fund … and I still want more.
It's a stupid, expensive, frustrating game and as rusty and jerky as my swing can be I'd much rather be flailing away at a Titleist right now than writing this blog.
I and 11 friends played eight rounds in five days last week on a golf trip in Pinehurst, N.C. No, we didn't play the resort courses this year, but some other tough tracks like The Pit and Tobacco Road.
The golf wasn't always pretty and the better players won out despite the avalanche of strokes some of us humble hackers received, but I wanted to keep playing.
The only real stress is carried by the organizer. This year it was my friend Alex. Organizing 12 idiots and getting them to pay on time can be a pain in the neck, so I'm glad he had the highlight shot of the trip, a near hole-in-one at Tobacco Road. As you can see by this photo of where his ball hit near the left of the cup, he came within millimeters of jarring it. A pretty cool shot!
The game is wonderful stress relief from your everyday druthers. After two or three rounds into the trip I thought of nothing except golf.
I've read stories that service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan that have set up driving ranges and makeshift courses as kind of an escape. Their stresses dwarf anything in my life, yet many of them enjoy the release from smacking drive after drive at the range. Many groups have set up methods to send them balls and clubs and other golf equipment. PGA Tour pros have also visited the troops.
Deeply embedded in mil-aeroPosted by Courtney E. Howard
At the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in San Jose this week, three trends stood out above all others. The first is multi-core. Embedded systems are increasingly taking advantage of multi-core processors, reaping the benefits of increased processing power in a small package. This increase in electronics and power density brings many benefits, but also greater challenges, such as increased heat--requiring an effective thermal-management solution.
The next important trend is hypervisor, a virtualization platform that enables multiple operating systems to run on a host computer at the same time. A number of technology companies in the mil-aero market, such as LynuxWorks in San Jose, are concentrating on the up-and-coming hypervisor trend -- and it is a great fit for mil-aero. It makes perfect sense for real-time operating systems (RTOS) offering multiple partitions, which enable the delivery of and access to classified and unclassified information on the same host computer. Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara (as well as technology partner Intel, whose new Atom processor was used in the computing platform) garnered a great deal of attention with a demonstration of hypervisor at work. A single host computer ran multiple operating systems, such as multiple instances of Linux and Windows, and delivered unclassified and classified information to separate users. The unclassified user's mouse cursor was locked in the unclassified OS window and could not click outside of that space (and onto the classified window).
Lastly, the importance of verifying software code was driven home in a number of show presentations. Static-analysis tools are an important component of any software-development workflow, especially given that modernization programs are bringing about a combination of legacy code, such as Ada, with Java, C, and C++ languages.
These are my thoughts on the embedded computing space, but I want to hear from you! What are your thoughts on multi-core, hypervisor, and software debugging and verification tools? What do you consider the hottest trends in embedded computing today for the mil-aero community?
¶ 4/17/2008 10:51:00 AM0 CommentsLinks to this post
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Strengthening the mission of putting buyers and sellers together Posted by John Keller
From time to time, organizations need to restate their primary missions -- not only to reinforce their overall goals, but also to chart how their courses might be evolving. So it is with Military & Aerospace Electronics, whose mission is to uncover trends and enabling technology in defense, space, and commercial aviation applications.
It's true that Military & Aerospace Electronics identifies trends in electronic and electro-optic technologies. We've been doing this since I helped found the magazine in late 1989. It was then, and still is to this day, our mission to track technologies from the chip-and-board level through finished subsystems to identify how these devices represent enabling technologies for the integrators of aircraft, combat vehicles, surface ships, submarines, and spacecraft.
It also is part of our core competence to identify how devices from chips to subsystems represent enabling technologies for finished applications like communications systems, radar, sonar, electronic warfare, navigation and guidance, laser systems, avionics, command and control, satellites and telemetry, and so on.
To do this usefully, Military & Aerospace Electronics identifies and explains trends in the component technologies from chips to subsystems -- trends involving topics such as power and thermal management, high-speed fabrics and networking, circuit board form factors and standards, microprocessors, field-programmable gate arrays, power electronics, diodes, fiber optics, MEMS and nanotechnology, software-engineering tools, sensors of all kinds, advanced I/O, test and measurement, and so on.
We achieve these goals not only through our print magazine and supplements that you've come to know over the years, but also through a Website that's updated every day, the Webcasts we host periodically throughout the year, our newly improved online buyers guide, which also comes out in print once a year, our electronic newsletters -- the weekly e-newsletter and our monthly Defense Executive e-newsletter for executive managers -- and our Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum conference and trade show.
What this all boils down to is Military & Aerospace Electronics puts buyers and sellers together. A radar system designer, for example, has performance requirements and a set range of operating conditions. It's our job to help alert that designer to the latest enabling technologies to help him meet his objectives.
We can help that designer understand what to look for; what's bleeding-edge technology, and what's tried-and-true; where cooling, size and weight, and power consumption are big factors; what he needs to look for in computational performance; and what range of components might be rugged enough for his application.
I got hit yesterday with a virus my IT guy hadn't seen before. Called the Xpantivirus, it fools you into thinking it's an antivirus software application that caught some spyware on your system and wants you to download the solution.
It had me till the download part. I thought that looks weird, called my IT guy and he said I dodged a bullet by not downloading. If I had it would've opened up a path for all sorts of malware, porn, and other crap to get into my computer.
So this is a little friendly warning in case any of you come across it. I got hit with it while surfing the web looking for information for a story.
My IT department provided the definition of the threat below.
Description: Xpantivirus is a rogue security tool, a program that claims to detect and remove or disable spyware, viruses, or other Internet threats. However, its capabilities are limited, and the tool may actually function as spyware or adware. This rogue anti-spyware tool often tricks users into purchasing. Trojan horse programs may force installs of Xpantivirus or make the application difficult to remove. It can be distributed through exploits particularly, the Vcodec vendor, which tricks user with Windows Media player codecs and forces an install.
Threat level: medium risk
Xpantivirus characteristics: displays ads; hijacks internet browser; downloads unsolicited files; exploits a security flaw; distributes threats; installs without user consent; and makes fraudulent claims about spyware detection and removal.
Parallel courses and the value of renewing old friendships Posted by John Keller
You know those coincidental, small-world experiences that you'd never, ever imaging having? Well, I had one of those this week when I visited an electro-optics surveillance company in Westborough, Mass., called RemoteReality Corp.
I'd been invited to interview the company's new CEO, retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, who before separating from the Navy had been deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs at the Pentagon.
RemoteReality makes a 360-degree surveillance system with visible-light and infrared sensors that -- unlike a super-wide-angle fisheye lens -- produces almost no optical distortion.
Before joining RemoteReality McGinn had spent five years at the Battelle Memorial Institute, the nonprofit research firm, where he led Battelle's energy, transportation, and environment division. Suffice it to say that McGinn has made a difference wherever he's been, and RemoteReality is pretty happy to have him.
When invited to interview McGinn, something deep down kept nagging at me. I knew that name from somewhere, but I couldn't place it. Then I started thinking WAY back, and doing a few Google searches, and it finally hit me: I had met McGinn more than 25 years before, when he was a Navy commander in charge of a Navy squadron of light-attack bombers at Lemoore Naval Air Station in Central California, where I was a cub reporter for a little daily paper called The Hanford Sentinel.
I'm pretty sure I attended the change-of-command ceremony where McGinn relinquished command of the Attack Squadron 27 Royal Maces to his successor in the early 1980s. Back in those days the squadron was flying the A-7E Corsair II attack jet, before it switched to the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter.
I and Adm. McGinn, who unpretentiously refers to himself as "Denny," found we have several acquaintances in common, not only from the old days at Lemoore NAS, but also in and around Washington during the 10 years I lived and worked there -- among them Vice Adm. Jerry Tuttle, who handled command, control, communications, and intelligence on the Pentagon's Joint Staff in the early 1990s, and CNN reporter Barbara Starr, with whom I worked at Jane's Information Group in the early 1990s, and who had the opportunity to interview McGinn several times while McGinn served at the Pentagon.
I guess if you're around long enough you start seeing things as cycles that can repeat themselves once in a while. I've had these experiences before, and they're always pleasant and memory-provoking. I'd like to thank Adm. McGinn for that, and for being so welcoming and willing to talk about old times.
¶ 4/11/2008 10:08:00 AM0 CommentsLinks to this post
Face-to-face interaction is invaluable in virtually any industry, but building strong relationships is particularly important in the mil-aero market. Privacy, discretion, and trust are part and parcel of many industry dealings -- in which the who, what, when, why, and how of many contract wins must be kept under lock and key for a time.
With a recession looming and belts being tightened in anticipation of a continued economic downturn, business travel is likely to decrease significantly for a majority of businesses and organizations. Travel budgets are among the first to be cut, in my experience, so I labor over where to spend my travel time (and money) and how best to spend my time at an event. (I have also opted to visit local technology companies, military bases, and more, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry. Thank you to all who wrote me and extended invitations.)
If you will not be at the event, stay tuned! Military & Aerospace Electronics? editors will soon launch a Community Web page at http://www.milaero.com? an online forum of sorts in which everyone in the industry can connect and share their ideas, opinions, innovations, experiences, and more.
HVVi is getting ready to announce a technology its leaders call high-voltage vertical field effect transistors -- otherwise known as HVVFETs -- for military power-intensive applications like avionics and ground-based pulsed radar.
The big advantage of HVVFET technology for systems designers is small size, light weight, and little power consumption. The reason is that each device can handle substantially more power, and at higher frequencies, than the technologies HVVFET is designed to replace.
Company officials say an HVVFET device can handle as much as 150 volts at frequencies as high as 12.5 GHz. Compare that to competing technologies like diffusion metal oxide semiconductor (DMOS) and laterally diffused metal oxide semiconductor (LDMOS), company officials say.
DMOS devices, they claim, can handle 28 to 50 volts at frequencies as high as 500 MHz, while LDMOS, they say, can handle 28 to 32 volts at frequencies as high as 3.5 GHz. The new technology even performs better at lower cost than gallium nitride (GaN) technology, they say.
The big story behind HVVFET, they say, is fewer devices to handle the same or larger workloads.
Some systems designers speculate that HVVFET technology could help trim as much as 300 pounds of weight off of aircraft-based radar systems because of fewer components, increased efficiencies, and relatively little need for active cooling.
HVVFET uses proprietary vertical technology based on proprietary edge termination that enables high voltage operation, company officials say. this approach, they claim, can double power density, improve efficiency by 30 percent, and double the gain and ruggedness relative to competing technologies.
HVVi leaders may announce products as early as this month -- the first of which are likely to be 48-volt devices operating at 1.2 to 1.4 GHz.
Last week a friend in the industry clued me into a link that not only lets you learn about a new weapon platform but play with it in a simulation.
The platform is the new Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) mobile artillery system. The NLOS canon is the first vehicle to be rolled out of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems program. According to the web site HowStuffWorks.com, the cannon "can hit a target accurately from as far away as 30 kilometers (about 18 miles), depending on the ordinance it's firing. The cannon being developed by BAE Systems for the U.S. Army uses a 155mm .38 caliber howitzer and allows for a wide choice of ordinance.
"Since the firing process is automated, the cannon can shoot rapidly. Automated firing also cuts the four or five personnel required to operate modern mobile artillery down to two soldiers."
Click here to play the online game "NLOS Cannon Challenge". The game, developed by InHance, is on the Discovery Channel's web site on "Future Weapons." It lets you choose your elevation, your velocity, and just fire away!
My first try I made it halfway through round 8 and scored 51,400 points.
Let me know if you top that score and don't forget to turn up the volume on your computer for the full effect.
Musings on the schizophrenic defense market Posted by John Keller
Plenty of things are happening these days to put a chill on the defense technology market. We have an election coming up with vastly uncertain prospects; military forces are still operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet a substantial force draw down is due very soon; and many ordinary citizens are getting sick of the Iraq war and are hungry for peace.
There's a sense that those in charge of U.S. military procurement are holding their collective breath until they get some solid indication of how the political winds are blowing.
If a Democrat is elected president this November, the procurement folks are worried that spending could start drying up. If a Republican is elected, on the other hand, it's likely that defense spending cuts might not be so deep as they would be under a new Democrat administration, but people seem to know in their guts that defense spending going forward will not be what it has been during the early years of this decade. A sense of foreboding is in the air.
This level of uncertainty is having a paralyzing influence on long-term planning in the defense industry. Overall, there is neither momentum nor clear direction on where defense spending is headed, and this holding pattern is likely to remain at least through the fall elections.
For some defense sectors -- particularly those involved with technology repair, replenishment, and some upgrades -- there is a strong sense of urgency to spend the money they have as quickly as they can in case the fall elections cause money to dry up.
I spoke to the manufacturer of housings for night-vision weapon sights who told me he can't make his products fast enough to meet demand. The reason for this, he says, is program managers who have money for repair and replenishment are spending it as fast as they can.
For many, the new fiscal year started this week. The dawn of a new fiscal year, not to mention the replenished funds that accompany it, is often welcomed -- nay, eagerly awaited. This year is different, however; virtually every economic outlook delivered by financial pundits is peppered with the R word (recession). There is an upside!
While many organizations (perhaps yours included) are hunkering down, bracing for the foreboding economic unknown (as foretold by financial and economic pundits), the staff of Military & Aerospace Electronics is investing in the very near future.
The travel budget is often among the first to be slashed preceding and during an economic downturn. If you cannot interface face to face (author uses repetition unsuccessfully for effect), or even if you can, join your industry colleagues online at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Web site.
If your travel budget won't carry you across the street, simply plunk down in front of your computer and connect with the industry. Post a comment on the editors' blog entries, read the half-dozen new online articles each day, and watch interesting video content relevant to the mil-aero market via www.milaero.com.
In the weeks to come, look for the new Community page, an online environment soon to be populated with industry members exchanging their ideas, opinions, innovations, "war stories," and much more. Also, keep an eye out for the Military & Aerospace Electronics video channel, coming soon.
In summary, c'mon online ... and come as you are: comment in your camouflage, propose ideas or act the pundit in your PJs, submit a query in your suit. Just come. I want to hear about you! See you soon!
¶ 4/03/2008 06:06:00 PM0 CommentsLinks to this post
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Posted by John McHale
Covering the military has its perks - none bigger than getting to spend time and talk with the outstanding men and women who are sacrificing a great deal for their country.
The added bonus within our niche at Military & Aerospace Electronics is that we also get to explore the amazing technology that is being deployed and developed such as laser weapons and new aircraft like the Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 Raptor.
The drawback is that a lot of what we learn we cannot turn around and share with our readers. Most of the time this understandable, the country is at war and some information published in a public forum could be damaging to U.S. security.
Another reason that information is not released is due to "contractual obligations" or to keep a "competitive advantage" for those companies involved.
Today's climate is providing a third reason to keep quiet on defense contracts. It's one I don't agree with. Some companies, due to the views of their management or investors, do not want to publicly admit they provide technology to the military.
We found this to be true quite a bit with some European suppliers, especially in Germany. That's almost understandable considering the country's history.
That said, the first two reasons above are perfectly acceptable, yet just as frustrating from a journalistic perspective when trying to provide an informative and complete story.
I imagine it is also frustrating from a marketing perspective. Companies want to let the world know how successful their products are but are held back by the nature of the industry they support.
However, sometimes the urge, need, or obsession with secrecy can be taken to the absurd.
I remember one incident that happened nearly a decade ago. I wrote about a new contract a company won - I will hold back the names of the players involved. The company could not comment beyond saying it won a contract because the contract was classified. So I figured if they couldn't talk about it must be secret. Hence the headline read "So and So wins secret contract."
Well needless to say the company got in big trouble with their customer because I used the word secret in the headline! Eventually it all worked out and they kept the contract but I still think in the big scheme of things the word secret did no more harm than if I used the word classified.