RESEARCH TRIANGLE–Seven North Carolina technology companies got an unprecedented chance to tell top federal officials how their products could help protect homeland security yesterday.

The meeting, arranged by the NC Electronics and Information Technologies Association (NCEITA), used the organization’s strong connections to both the state’s technology companies and with policy makers very effectively, say executives who attended.

A substantial number of North Carolina’s congressional delegation showed up, including Reps. Bob Etheridge, Richard Burr, and David Price, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, and senior staff from Sen. John Edward’s office and those of other state congressmen, FBI agents, and state officials. MCNC hosted the event.

Rep. Etheridge told the group that one of the challenges the government faces is making sense of the mounds of data it collects. As one speaker commented, “the government is sometimes described as a big ear with a little brain.”

Rep. Etheridge said the government needs data mining, coordination, and speed. “It’s about moving information quickly and collating it so that it’s useful and in one place,” he said. Rep. Etheridge is NC’s only congressman on the House select committee on homeland security.

Executives from attending companies lauded NCEITA for providing access to such top-level government officials.

Doug Miskew, chief executive of Raleigh-based Capital Technologies, tells Local Tech Wire, “It’s difficult to get an audience with those folks. Huge numbers of people are showing in Washington these days trying to sell homeland security products.”

Bioterror Detection

Alan Ying, MercuryMD chief executive officer, says the meeting “was singularly productive. I’ve never seen one as productive in creating public-private sector collaboration. NCEITA has done an unbelievable job.”

Ying’s company pitched its automated bioterrorism detection system. “We have a fully functioning system that’s unique in the country,” says Ying.

MercuryMD makes mobile data systems it sells to hospitals so doctors, nurses and other health professionals can enter and receive patient records on hand held PDAs. The company employs 40 people and was founded in 2001 “right in the middle of the nuclear meltdown,” says Ying, referring to the economic downturn.

Ying says the company is pursuing a pilot program with its anti-bioterrorism system, which uses data from the Center for Disease Control to automatically alert health care officials to signs of a bioterrorist attack.

“All the congressional people discussed it afterward,” says Ying. “They committed to a substantial follow-up.” Ying says that implementing the system statewide would be seven-figure deal, and going national would be a nine-figure endeavor.

Community Communication

“I presented on community preparedness and applied methodologies,” says Matt Carbone, president of Greenville-based Ideations llc.

Ideations has participated in several disaster training exercises, coordinating communications between responders, various software programs, and systems.

“Training exercises are essential in learning how to get various community groups, first responders, and security forces to collaborate in an effective manner,” Carbone says. “Understanding the value and applicable resources each group has to offer increases the effectiveness of response to any scale emergency situation.”

Carbone says the company received a positive response at the meeting.
“The task force announced at the meeting will prove a valuable asset to the state and NCEITA did an incredible job pulling this group together and providing the stage on which it was formed.”

Lee Bryan, Knowledge Vector chairman and CEO, says, “We were doing homeland security before it was cool.” His Durham-based company presented its system for “Awareness Fusion.”

The threat alert and awareness management system the company makes coordinates data from various security and surveillance systems at airports, port authorities, and other facilities. It then “alerts the right people at the right time, quickly,” the company says.

Opportunity for Smaller Companies

Mary Musacchia of SAS says that while larger firms such as SAS, IBM, and Cisco, all of which had representation at the meeting, may benefit less than the smaller companies from the connections made at the meeting and through the task force. “Larger companies like SAS may get something from it, but it’s a real opportunity for smaller technology companies,” she says.


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