The information age that is defining our entry into a new millennium is being driven by the rapid development of technology, and that development in turn is being driven by research. Both government and industry are reaping the benefits of this windfall in electronics. However, both must not forget the importance of continuing to pursue scientific advances that will fuel and sustain this technology boom. And, both sectors must also coordinate their efforts to ensure that government needs are met through purposeful research.
A growing industry and government effort to provide nationwide Internet services has created an intricate maze of accessibility, content and quality control challenges. With the number of Internet users now totaling 320 million, more than a score of browsers in use and the development of constantly changing Internet technologies, the online challenges are complex. Navigation has been difficult, errors continue to creep in, and many users are excluded from access to a large number of World Wide Web sites.
The U.S. Army is assessing a prototype multimedia network that will serve as a technology testbed for prospective military tactical wireless systems. Part of a joint program of the Army's Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and industry, the two-year project involves studying the best ways to apply civilian off-the-shelf hardware and software to tactical battlefield uses. Potential benefits include new types of mobile devices with minimal requirements for cables or additional attachments-greatly decreasing the amount of equipment transported or carried by Army personnel.
A synergistic interaction between experts, processes and technology is producing concepts of space systems for the U.S. Air Force that will effectively use current and planned assets to address future warfighters' needs. In a corporate facility dedicated to maximizing a coordinated team approach, specialists in utility, availability, cost, power, propulsion, software and payloads develop consistent point designs in as little as three days.
U.S. Air Force experts are introducing new methods of developing, deploying and exploiting information systems in the joint environment. However, instead of inventing new technologies for leap-ahead capabilities, planners now are innovating system architectures and operational methodologies to provide more efficient and effective networking and information access.
Military and civilian command and control experts are exploring new ways to exploit one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. Air Force arsenal-information. Processes, procedures and technologies currently under development are scheduled to be put into place later this year and in early 2001.
The U.S. Army's transformation to a rapid-response fighting force is compelling its information systems experts to shift their plans for digitization. Situational awareness is increasing in importance, sensors are becoming more sophisticated, and diverse elements and activities are being linked to make the individual soldier an information-enhanced warrior.
Holodecks may only exist in the realm of science fiction, but work underway at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory will allow military personnel to not only view a deluge of data but also interact with it. Many of the technologies that are key to this effort are still in their infancy; however, researchers are examining some currently available commercial products that meet requirements identified by commanders. Today's data display systems allow military personnel to view substantial amounts of data on one interactive screen. Tomorrow's systems would invite commanders to step inside a scenario virtually and become immersed in situational awareness.
A new polymer-based electro-optic modulator may provide fiber optic networks with an order of magnitude increase in bandwidth that could clear the way for applications ranging from broadband Internet access to full-scale holographic projection currently found in science fiction television programs. Developed in a joint research effort by scientists at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, and the University of Washington, Seattle, the new technology also uses less power than present-generation modulators and features low noise disturbance.
Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, are conducting ground-breaking research into super-small structures that has led to prototype devices such as ultraminiaturized chemical sensors and analyzers, tiny medical devices, super-strong alloys, and catalysts for destroying hazardous materials. Future applications could include filters that selectively admit or seal out substances through molecule-sized valves, medical devices that precisely monitor patient health and deliver exact doses of medication based on that data, and clothing that knows when the wearer is hot or cold and then admits air or becomes an insulator accordingly.
An information retrieval tool that is more powerful and accurate than standard search engines allows users to quickly retrieve information within several mouse clicks. The application combs through the "hits" produced by investigation programs to find documents based on specific word associations and creates a database from these results. By highlighting only specific paragraph-sized sections of text, the technology streamlines the research process by eliminating the task of scanning entire documents to find bits of relevant data.