Magazine article National Defense

Firms Pushing Commercial Systems to Lure Defense Customers

Magazine article National Defense

Firms Pushing Commercial Systems to Lure Defense Customers

Article excerpt

* It was not all that long ago when only the elite forces - would grab commercial technologies off the shelf and modify them for military purposes rather than wait for the Pentagon to churn through bureaucratic red tape and budgetary cycles to develop the hardware five to 10 years down the road.

Now that speeding technologies to the battlefield--and procuring them at lower costs--have become paramount concerns, the Defense Department increasingly is buying commercial-based systems and adapting them for the fight. Pentagon weapons that previously cost millions can be bought on the cheap, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or less.

In an effort to attract defense customers, companies are trying to adapt commercial products to the Pentagon's needs.

At a military system conference in San Diego, wide-screen televisions arranged three high and three across formed a video-wall being hawked by Hiperwall, an Irvine, Calif-based firm. The flashy presentation caught eyes as patrons entered the exhibit hall. Though the wall-as-display concept is decades old, expensive hardware and connectivity issues have stymied its adoption and growth, officials said. A glance behind such walls has often revealed why: The tangled guts comprising cables and connections spill out from monitors into processors, matrix switches, amplifiers and routers.

"Come take a look at what's behind ours," invited CEO Jeff Greenberg. Hiperwall's software-based technology involves surprisingly few cables leading from the monitors to a single black box that resembles a home wireless router.

"Mostly what we've done is taken out the complexity and taken out the cost," he said. "We can do everything that hardware-based video-walls can do, but with a reduced footprint, thermal signature, power consumption, complexity, cable clutter and most importantly, reduced cost."

Almost every major display manufacturer offers monitors with embedded computers for digital signage applications, Greenberg explained. Each monitor has two connectors coming out of it, one for power and one for Ethernet. The cables run into an ordinary Ethernet switch.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

During demonstrations, officials showed visitors how they could place on the wall any number of digital items using a laptop computer. Just as one would resize and control images and applications on personal computer screens, company representatives manipulated maps, documents, slideshows, movies and live feeds ranging from teleconferencing video to a real-time air traffic website.

Hiperwall's software takes the source feed, captured through a commercial video card, and streams it up to the wall, Greenberg said. …

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