Tech Spur: We don't need a war to drive innovation

When it comes to being catalysts for IT advancement, the war on terrorism is no World War II or even the Cold War.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 3, 2005

2 Min Read

When it comes to being catalysts for IT advancement, the war on terrorism is no World War II or even the Cold War.

During World War II, scientists and engineers created technologies such as radar and later applied them to civilian applications. Cold War technologists advanced missile technology that not only deterred our chief adversary but helped launch manned space flight.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, aren't propelling technology innovation in the same way. More often, technological solutions to combat terrorism come from employing or refining existing technologies such as data mining, wireless, and chemical, biological, and nuclear sensors. Most new technologies that can be applied to homeland security were already on the drawing boards before 9/11.

One idea that was in the works before 9/11 at Ohio State University is a sensor to detect concealed weapons or help pilots see better in rain and fog--technology that has homeland-security and commercial applications. The sensor spots objects based on how brightly they reflect the natural radiation that exists in the environment, says Paul Berger, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics, who heads the team that's developing the sensor. Once it's further developed, the sensor could be used to scan people or luggage. And if the sensor were embedded in an airplane nose, it might help pilots see a runway during bad weather.

Berger's approach reflects the dominant role of technology in the 21st century, an era when technology, especially IT, is everywhere. We don't need war to compel the creation of new technologies. Profit, consumer demand, and efficiency prove motive enough. And, with businesses and the government turning to commercial, off-the-shelf technologies to run their enterprises, the best solutions to protect the homeland often come from proven technologies.

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