June 27, 2002 5:05 PM PDT
Tech companies: Do as Bond would do
The fictional British spy used technology to his advantage when tracking down criminal masterminds. But in the real-world fight against terrorism, the situation shouldn't be different, Gilman Louie, chief executive of In-Q-Tel, said during a keynote speech at the TechXNY trade show here.
"I am asking all of you in this room to do one thing: to think about how we can employ these technologies to give ourselves a competitive edge," Louie said. His speech, called "James Bond Saves the USA," stressed that the government's ability to analyze and distribute information quickly is the greatest weapon it has in diffusing terrorist threats.
The cooperation of IT companies in the fight against terrorism is not a new call. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government proposed several funding initiatives to spur technology innovation that could help so-called homeland security.
In-Q-Tel is a nonprofit technology company funded by the CIA. The company identifies technologies that could be of use to national security efforts and works with businesses to develop technologies as well.
The partnership of technology companies and government was evident at this year's show. For the first time, the FBI had a booth, and FBI agent Harold Hendershot gave a keynote speech--a spot usually reserved for industry executives. Security was one of the most popular themes on the floor and on discussion panels this year, according to show director Christina Condos of CMP Media.
Louie urged IT companies to help solve technology problems for corporate America because at the same time, he said, those technologies could eventually help the government's cause.
"If we want to make IT effective for the government, we have to make it effective for the people," Louie said.
In-Q-Tel has invested in 30 companies since its launch in 1999. More than 12 technologies from those companies are being used by the government, Louie said.
Some of the companies In-Q-Tel has invested in include Attensity, a Salt Lake City-based data integration company; Stratify, a Mountain View, Calif.-based database management company; and SafeWeb, an Emeryville, Calif.-based security company.
Managing information overload
Louie outlined a number of problems for which his company is seeking technology fixes. Keeping track of various information amid a deluge of spam or unwanted e-mail is a challenge many individuals face--and one companies should address aggressively, he said.
The same technologies that can solve "America's e-mail problem" and "eliminate the phone tag game" will also help intelligence analysts do their jobs, he said.
Technologies to improve data mining or anything that can "save a worker 20 minutes a day" will also help the government, he added. "We cannot afford to have this country buried in information it can't digest."
Security for hardware and equipment is another issue where there is much room for corporate and government crossover, Louie said. The government needs laptops that are secure and tamper-proof if lost. Corporate CEOs require similar safeguards, as customer lists and corporate secrets are often kept on handhelds or laptops.
Current methods of security only slow down portable devices, Louie said, and often cause file access times to lag by as much as a factor of ten.
Also on the radar for companies should be better practices for backing up data and planning for recovery in the event of a disaster. The current technologies aren't adequate for the government--or the private sector, Louie said.
Storing all backup data in one secure place--the "silo" philosophy--or simply "mirroring" or copying data isn't good enough, he said.
"I have a fail-proof test," Louie said. "Tell everyone to stay home one day. Give them no access to the company's intranets and see if the company can still do business."